By Radhika Khandelwal, Chef-owner, Fig and Maple, New Delhi
2020 has been declared the Decade of Delivery for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the United Nations, and I wanted to ensure that I aligned myself and my restaurants’ functionality with these guidelines. To this end, we designed a 45 day long “Be a #ZeroWasteHero” campaign to raise awareness about issues such as hunger, biodiversity, climate change, and food waste. This advocacy and action campaign, which launched on 1 January 2020, shares actionable tips, tricks, and recipes across my social media channels and at my restaurant Fig and Maple. The campaign not only tells other chefs’ stories, but also includes farmers, produce suppliers, consumers, the agriculture department and a range of other experts.
To our delight, the campaign has garnered a lot of attention from laypeople, industry experts, and media publications alike. Some of the noteworthy mentions included Vogue India, Conde Nast, India Today, and a special shout-out from Bollywood celebrity Sameera Reddy.
We’ve also received global endorsements from members of the hospitality industry who are emulating a range of sustainable practices in their own establishments. Amongst them are: Chef Kainaz Contractor (Chef-Owner, Rustoms Parsi Bhonu), Chef Megha Kohli (Executive Chef, Lavaash by Saby), Chef Conor Spacey (Culinary Director, Food Space) Vijay Mudaliar at Native, Singapore (now #2 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars and #12 on the World’s 50 Best Bars).
While the original intent of the campaign was – and still is – to simply promote a more secure food future, we never could have fathomed its wide-reaching appeal. It is therefore our distinct pleasure to share some of the campaign highlights with you in this blog.
Promoting plant-based: We’ve revised recipes on our menu with ingredients that many would consider food scraps or waste. For example, we’ve replaced all mayonnaise varieties with a jackfruit seed hummus. This step has enabled us to promote plant-based biodiversity and root-to-shoot cooking on a grassroots level.
We’re on TV: We are collaborating with Pluc TV to start our own video channel advocating for sustainability and food security. Beginning February, the show will air once a month with 3-minute episodes.
Use excess produce: We have begun sourcing bulk harvests from farmers who had excess produce that would otherwise have ended up in landfills.
Root to shoot: Over 60% of the menu at Fig & Maple features dishes with ingredients that are utilised from root to shoot in acceptable and delicious forms.
Traditional ingredients: We are actively reviving native & tribal ingredients and processes.
Zero-Waste Dinner: As an integral part of our initiative, we hosted a zero waste dinner and party in conjunction with Space 10, a Sweden-based think-tank powered by Ikea.
Catering: We catered a Zero-Waste meal for Australia’s foreign minister Marise Ann Payne at the Australian High Commission.
Cooking dinners for a Food Bank: In our effort to give back to society and fight hunger whilst learning extensively, we initiated monthly dinners in association with the Robin Hood Army. The goal for these dinners is to showcase underrepresented dishes and ingredients of India’s diverse culinary heritage and to use old cooking processes and techniques. This gives us the opportunity to use even more biodiverse ingredients in our cooking. All proceeds of these dinners go to the Robin Hood Army Food Bank in kind. We are stoked to inform that we have contributed the equivalent of 5400kg of grains so far.
We’re happy to share a few recipes that were posted on our Instagram account during the campaign. Dishes like the Carrot Top Dip, Skinny Chippin’ – our very own take on root vegetable skins, Zero Waste Kimchi, and the Pea Pod Noodle Salad were some of our guests favourites.
We have always been passionate about working in the space of zero waste and biodiversity at Fig and Maple and our goal – even after the campaign finishes – is therefore to continue to advocate and act for the same cause. We are thankful to have had such immense support via the Chefs’ Manifesto.
We hope you’ll try out some of these recipes and join us by becoming a #ZeroWasteHero yourself! You can follow the campaign on Instagram (@pandoodle) – and please, send me your feedback; I’d love to hear from you!