Day 3: Data and disruptors in the kitchen

by Jules Mercer

Data to devour…

Across vast oceans, just north of Australia lies East Timor – an island 8.8 degrees south of the equator, surrounded by marine rich waters and reefs teaming with life.  Mark Notoras and Alva Lim run Agora Food Studio, a small social enterprise eatery that offers food that is “good, clean and fair for producers, eaters and the environment”. Whilst celebrating local produce and acing Barista competitions, this tiny team has created a powerful solution to capture, assess and quantify data on practices led by the SDGs.  The tech would be revolutionary for Manifesto chefs – we could combine all our data globally and deliver it with maximum impact – all in real time?

The idea: diner walks into your bar, and checks the dashboard to see that so far this week, by using paper straws, you’ve saved 1,563 plastic straws from going into a landfill.  Diner orders an Aloe Vera crushed geranium and local gin cocktail, then sits and enjoys this sustainable drink of choice.  On leaving, diner checks the dashboard again to see that after his one cocktail in this establishment, he’s positively contributed to the now 1,564 plastic straws that have been saved from landfills.  Boom!

We’re engaged, excited and engrossed to see where this tech goes.


Scaling up sustainability

What does it take to run a commercial, successful, large-scale catering kitchen?

Chef Conor Spacey took to the floor to address the viability of practicing sustainability on a large scale – his business Foodspace in Ireland does exactly that.

“Globally, contract catering feeds millions of people monthly.  The changes we make in this sphere will have massive impact”.  Education of staff, procurement teams and companies in general is a vital step to making this viable.

The canteens of Princeton serve incredible amounts of meals to students monthly – what we need to see is a “tectonic shift in systems, from the procurement point of view we need to educate buyers not only on the why we support good food production, but the what and the how needs support and education from a chef level”

Princeton’s Smitha Haneef and Chef Brad Ortega celebrated the leaps and strides Princeton is undertaking to source good food carefully:

Globally there is so much knowledge – it’s good to look at who want to create the value for?  In Africa perhaps it is for the women producers, and farmers, in the US the concept is different.  We want to create value for our community and invest in health and well-being. We’re in a great space with our ethos at Princeton – our leaders support and expect us to carve a sustainable path for the future.”


Open the lid of the pot for plant-forward protein options…

Historically, as a chef, dealing with protein (ie, a great piece of meat) was the peak of your career. If you couldn’t cook a perfect steak, you couldn’t cook.  This is all changing now – creativity in the plant-based sphere is much more admired and revered.  Let’s look at Ottolenghi – one chef who has singlehandedly managed to get the world excited about sumac and superb salads.  Starting in the small kitchen of his first restaurant in North London, he has pushed the message globally.  We can all do the same.  In the words of Fabrice Declerck: “How do you, as chefs, make me want to eat this plate of new and exciting ingredients?”


So, looking forward how will we incorporate plant-forward proteins into menus, diets and conversations?

“The popularity of protein has soared – almost to a hysteria,” Tess from Quorn Foods explains, “It’s incredibly important, nutritionally speaking, so we’re taking a detailed lense on the protein guidelines and seeing how we can take this into production”.  

All sectors spoke in of the plant-based protein shifts in respective industries  - from Le Cordon Bleu offering a plant-based course to Quorn’s journey to identify the complexities of protein requirements and qualities of plant-based proteins.

Wrapping up a 3 day information fest full of feasts – thank you to all who participated, led invigorating conversation and helped us all take steps forward to a better world through food.


All photos were taken by Diana Patient.

Big thanks to OmVed Gardens for their continued support and hosting of the Chefs' Manifesto London Action Hub. 


“Thanks very much for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this inspiring group of chefs and experts.  I enjoyed these days intensively, and will take back enormous value for the future. 

Chef Paul J Hanssen


“Thank you for your generous hospitatlity and graciousness to host Chefs' Manifesto global gathering.  It was an immersive exchange and learning experience with revered peers in the food system space.  It was wonderful to be there.”

Smitha Haneef