Our Executive Chef, Marek Dabrowski, took to the stage at International Confex to highlight the sustainable practices our venues are using to tackle food waste. He joined, Jo Austin, Sales Director at Lime Venue Portfolio, Andrew Perolls, CEO at Greengage Solutions and Sharon Bannister, Head of Venue Find at Agiito to discuss catering for changing delegate tastes. The session was moderated Louisa Watson, Director of Marketing at Wyboston Lakes Resort. The lively discussion touched on several areas from managing dietary requirements, to new ways of cooking, to sourcing of products and ingredients. Here are some of the insights we picked up.
Chefs need to learn about new food options, new ways of cooking, creating better plant-based options and driving demand rather than following, how are you tackling this?
With sustainability, we are now focusing more on developing our vegan offering. Our plant-based meals never taste like a compromise. They’re delicious. We’ve become experts at creating eco-friendly plant-based desserts, canapes and main dishes.
Tell me how you cater for dietary options, balanced with healthy options and being mindful of food waste?
We have always offered a Meat, Fish and Vegetarian option for our delegates across all our venues. This helps to cater for dietary requirements quickly, means there is a good choice, that includes healthy options, but most importantly it helps to reduce food waste.
How are event menus and food in general adapting and changing to be more sustainable?
To further reduce our carbon footprint, we source at least 75% of our meat, vegetables, and fruit locally (from the UK) rather than abroad. It makes sense from an environmental perspective and it supports the UK economy.
What “meat standards” should we be looking to develop?
As for our food standards, they have always been high. All our meat has Red Tractor certification, and our suppliers meet BRC approvals which means we can trace all our meat back to the farm it originated.
What polices do you have around sourcing products and ingredients? Are some things off the menu?
Our Soil Association accreditations mean we adhere to strict organic food sourcing standards. This covers everything from animal welfare to safeguarding the environment. If it does not adhere to these standards, then it is generally off the menu.
What are the big event bookers most focused on with regards to food production?
Waste is one of the areas big event bookers focus on. One way we tackle this is to be smarter about how we use our ingredients. For instance, rather than throwing cauliflower leaves away (which typically happens in most kitchens), we use the leaves to create sauces or a salad base. We also develop new recipes, like the delicious Zero Waste Harissa Roasted Cauliflower recipe (pictured), that makes full use of the vegetable.
What are the main challenges around food waste currently and how are you tackling them?
We’ve introduced a series of measures to tackle food waste. Obviously, we can’t fall short of preparing enough food for an event so the approach we take is to replenish rather than overload a buffet which can lead to food wastage. We also record and diarise waste; this helps us look for patterns and insights that can help us avoid future wastage.