Spanish chefs’ take sizeable steps to sustainability

By Hannah Crump, SRA Senior Account Manager

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting the Basque Culinary Centre, the culinary foundation created and backed by some of the most influential chefs in the world, including Spain’s own Ferran Adria, as a training, research and innovation project. It was set up to champion innovation in the hospitality sector, to ensure a forward thinking industry for the future.

I had been invited to present to the lucky students from the centre who, as part of their degrees in Gastronomy and Culinary Arts, have been exposed to a range of subjects including gastronomic culture, business management and culinary production. I was there to represent the SRA, one of a number of speakers to help broaden the students’ sustainability knowledge and enable them to find practical ways of applying it in the workforce.

Just as we talk about the 14 key areas of sustainability, the Culinary Centre has developed its own ten goals. The day was about introducing the students to a number of organisations that align with these principles. The ten goals include waste reduction, recycling and reuse, and diets based on local production.

The other speakers gave the students a real flavour of how sustainability works in action, on the ground, quite literally in the case of Karabeleko, a not for profit experimental farm, that pioneers organic produce. A local architect talked about building sustainability into the very fabric of a restaurant, using natural materials and a waste management company described the benefits of composting unavoidable food waste.

All of the presentations were absolutely fantastic, but it was Carlos Zamora, who with his family, runs a small group of ethical restaurants founded in Santander, who made the greatest impression on me. It reminded me of how important it is that we do what we do. Carlos spoke about what the business does under what we term ‘Treating People Fairly’. They’ve really taken on board the whole ethos of work/life balance and taken seriously their role and responsibility as an employer, employing people of all ages and encouraging the sharing of skills and experience; running a breakfast shift just so they can accommodate people who have family or other personal commitments in the evenings; offering training opportunities and visits to suppliers for staff. Carlos spelled out the personal and business benefits he sees in operating this way.

It left me with the same feeling I get every time I speak with a member and hear about the incredible things they’ve done that week or month to do more and go further, and I have every confidence that this positivity will have extended to the students in the audience, opening their eyes to how they can run their own restaurants in years to come.

Building sustainability into the training of the next generation of chefs is absolutely critical for the future of the hospitality industry and it was wonderful to find it happening in San Sebastian.

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