I have always focused on creating locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable menus, with a close to zero food waste approach. Recently, I have focused even more on sustainability.
This was inspired by last year’s the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, where more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe come together to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet.
Following this, I started to look at the main areas of concern from the report when it came to sustainability, and the one that stood out to me the most was the consumption of meat or foods sourced from animals, especially red meat.
It motivated me to create a recipe bank of climate-friendly menus focusing on plant-based, vegetarian and dishes with reduced meat. It's important to take into consideration that The Lancet Commission does not encourage people to ban meat menus, but it recommends a reduction in meat consumption; a diet that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal source foods is healthy, sustainable, and good for both people and the planet. It is not a question of all or nothing, but rather small changes for a large and positive impact.
At Airbnb in Ireland, we run a meatless menu day twice a month, and to celebrate Earth Day on May 22nd, we ran the meatless menu once a week for the month of April. We also introduced a climate-friendly menu on one of our busiest days, completely created using byproducts and food trimmings that normally end up in the compost bin.
Our day-to-day operations consist of filtering our food trimmings from our CPU into all different channels where everything has its own use. For example, we ferment melon seeds then dehydrate them to make an ingredient for salad toppings, granola bars or dessert components. We make syrup from the skins to use in our kombucha production; cauliflower leaves get fermented into different things like kimchi and sauerkraut; broccoli & cauliflower stalks get made into crisps in our snack stations, or incorporated trimmings into our dishes.
The food we eat, the way we produce it, and the amount wasted or lost, have major impacts on human health and environmental sustainability. Getting it right with food will be an important way for countries to achieve sustainability targets. Good food can be a powerful driver of change.
So what can we do? Change culture by changing menus. Chefs and other culinary professionals are well-positioned to make healthy and sustainable foods delicious by applying unique insights, skills and creativity to craft next-generation models of innovation in foodservice and hospitality.
Here are a few personal tips:
Emphasise the benefits of dietary shifts. Eating healthy foods from sustainable food systems is only partially about decreasing the intake of certain foods. Place the emphasis on eating more of the healthy options rather than simply focusing on decreasing the intake of unhealthy foods.
Explore new foods and mix up menus. Focus on the array of new flavours, ingredients and menu options that the planetary health diet opens up by embarking on a lifetime of discovery.
Lead with messaging around flavour. Use culinary techniques and source the best-tasting ingredients to ensure that healthy and sustainable options are as desirable as, or more so than, the alternatives. Making the healthiest and most sustainable options by far the tastiest and appealing is critical.
Minimise food waste through careful planning and portioning and be proactive by using the entire product at every chance.
Let plants take centre stage. Foodservice professionals can help reduce meat consumption through portion sizes, for example by blending meat with vegetables and plant proteins in bowls, burgers, curries and stews or by using meat as a condiment, seasoning or garnish (in servings of less than 20 grams) while allowing fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes to take starring roles.
Embrace cultural food influences. Look to a variety of traditional, plant-forward food cultures across the globe for inspiration around both flavour strategies and to craft tasty dishes on restricted budgets through cultural exchanges.
Bring biodiversity to the table. Bold conservation targets require collaboration between farmers and farming communities to maintain habitats on or around farms and to enable the safe passage of wildlife. Source ingredients from farmers and suppliers who contribute to efforts for biodiversity.
Share the farmer’s story. Convey to diners the important contributions of farmers to conservation efforts through menus. This will, in turn, help create demand for healthy and sustainably produced foods.
About the Author: Maurice Mc Geehan
With over 20 years’ national and international experience, and currently Corporate Executive Chef for Airbnb EMEA headquarters in Dublin, Maurice spent the early part of his career working in Ireland before moving to London where he had the opportunity to experience everything from Michelin to cuisines from all around the world, working with chefs with different backgrounds and styles of food.
Maurice received a scholarship from the Compass group and completed his BSC degree in international culinary arts from Thames Valley University in 2006 and, after 8 years in the UK, and, Maurice opened his own Irish restaurant in Brazil, were he offered contemporary Irish and Brazilian dishes using local produce and bringing European techniques to Brazilian ingredients. Here Maurice learned how to make the most of what was around him by using every part of the product, something that he has brought back to Ireland with him
As the Executive Chef for Airbnb, Maurice created a food programme based in authentic and healthy food, where everything is made in-house, sourced from sustainable producers and suppliers, seasonal and as much as possible sourced from within our own Irish shores, utilising modern techniques, concepts, new combinations of ingredients to create menus that reflect the different cultures of the workforce in the office.