/ 13 September 2011

Chefs aim to save the world

They are more used to coming up with wild and wonderful recipes for their clientele in the world’s leading restaurants. But now a gathering of top chefs has come up with a plan to save the planet, one dinner at a time, with an open letter to the next generation of cooks signed by the likes of Ferran Adriá and Heston Blumenthal.

The so-called G9 meeting of nine of the world’s top chefs, took place in Lima, Peru, at the weekend, where they tried to define what they believe should be the role of those who follow in their footsteps.

Their starry-eyed manifesto painted a bright but serious future for those who want to improve the world from underneath a chef’s hat.

“Cooking is not only a response to the basic human need of feeding ourselves, and is also more than the search for happiness,” they said. “Cooking is a powerful, transformative tool that, through the joint effort of co-producers — whether we be chefs, producers or eaters — can change the way the world nourishes itself.”

“We dream of a future in which the chef is socially engaged, conscious of and responsible for his or her contribution to a just and sustainable society.”

Three of the nine chefs, Adriá, Blumenthal and René Redzepi, have between them won the coveted San Pellegrino world’s best restaurant award every year for the past seven.

Their Open Letter to the Chefs of Tomorrow spelt out duties towards nature, society, knowledge and ethics.

Nature’s gifts
“Our work depends on nature’s gifts,” they said. “As a result we all have a responsibility to know and protect nature.

“Through our cooking, our ethics and our aesthetics, we can contribute to the culture and identity of a people, a region, a country.

“We can also serve as an important bridge to other cultures.”

Future chefs should also teach members of the public “to acquire good cooking habits, and to learn to make healthy choices about the foods they eat”.

They also called on chefs to be less secretive about their personal recipes for success. “Just as we have benefitted from the teaching of others, we have a responsibility, in turn, to share our learning,” the letter said.

They went on to encourage future chefs to take up a profession that “can be a beautiful form of self-expression”, adding: “It is important to carry out our quests and fulfil our dreams with authenticity, humility, and, above all, passion. Ultimately we are each guided by our own ethics and values.”

The chefs fended off criticism that they should remain in their kitchens and devote themselves exclusively to cooking. “The world is changing at an incredible speed,” said Adriá, who is closing his El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona in order to turn it into a research and teaching foundation.

“Beforehand you only had to cook and feed, but we have now seen that we can also have other roles to play.”

Redzepi, head chef at Noma in Copenhagen, said that good, inventive cooking required more than just hours in the kitchen. “Finding a great flavour relies on decisions that are directly related to the environment and our surroundings.

“We are at a special, inspirational moment, in which we are becoming more than just people who make food or own businesses,” the Dane told Peru’s El Comercio newspaper.

Since 2005 his restaurant has won the San Pellegrino award twice, Adriá’s four times and Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, once.

The chefs jointly serve on the international board of the Basque Culinary Centre, which is setting up a training centre in northern Spain — home to Michelin-star winning chefs such as Juan Mari Arzak, Martín Berasategui and Andoni Luis Aduriz.

Blumenthal was unable to attend the Lima summit, reportedly citing “personal reasons”. – guardian.co.uk