About Time You Met: Tom Hunt, Food Writer, Eco Chef, and Co-Owner of Poco RestaurantBy Alicia Grimshaw
Author, restauranteur, eco chef and campaigner, Tom Hunt has many strings to his bow. Tom is a co-owner of Poco Tapas Bar, with outposts in Bristol and London. With a big focus on sustainability and food waste, Tom is also on a mission to help create a fairer food system through helping people eat better food. We chatted with Tom about Fairtrade Fortnight, sustainability and root to fruit eating:
Hey Tom! Can you tell us a little bit more about Fairtrade Fortnight and how people can get involved?
Fairtrade Fortnight is the Fairtrade Foundation’s biggest annual campaign to help raise awareness of the farmers and workers that produce the things we love to eat, drink and wear. This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight is about celebrating these people and the incredible products and produce they make.
There’s loads of ways people can get involved, from hosting a ‘Come On In’ supper club or event like the one we’re holding at Poco, to Fairtrade coffee mornings, getting involved in your local Fairtrade group, or just buying more Fairtrade products and sharing the Fairtrade message online through #FairtradeFortnight.
Unsurprisingly it’s the commodities like chocolate, tea, coffee and sugar that are the most vulnerable to exploitation. However, fortunately this is where we can make the most impact simply by pledging to buy and enjoy Fairtrade products when we can.
Photo Credit: Tom Hunt
You’re behind Poco Tapas Bar, which was crowned 2016 Sustainable Restaurant of the year – what small steps can people and restaurants take in becoming more sustainable?
Firstly buy seasonal whenever possible. The hidden waste in production and resources importing our food is a huge contributor to climate change and waste because of the many challenges of distribution.
Secondly – if you haven’t already – organise a compost bin with your local council or in your garden. When food is turned back into soil it’s no longer waste, but nutrients to grow more food.
Last but not least ‘eat for pleasure’! Enjoy shopping for your food and cooking your favourite things to eat. When you can spend a little more on your favourite ingredients, I guarantee you’ll get your monies worth through the enjoyment, nutrition, health and gratitude you get from that food.
Photo Credit: Poco
You’re a big advocate of root to fruit eating – how can we be less wasteful?
Root to fruit eating has three key principles; eat for pleasure, eat whole foods, and eat the best food you can. Really caring for your ingredients and cooking them from root to fruit will save as much as 30% of the ingredient you’d normally throw away in peelings, stalks, leaves, trimmings and throwaways.
Root to fruit eating means cooking consciously making the most of our ingredients and wasting nothing. It’s a step on from the nose to tail philosophy which means to eat the whole animal. By cooking from root to fruit we can save money, by saving the food and offcuts we would have thrown away. This creates a budget for buying, higher welfare, better quality ingredients that in turn provide us with more nutrition whilst supporting our local community by buying more local, less travelled produce. Basically ‘Waste Less and Buy Better.’
How important are issues such as food waste and ethical, local sourcing?
When you include all aspects of its production and distribution, food is the largest contributing factor towards climate change. The way we eat has a complex and profound impact on every aspect of life.
Even our own actions can create positive change; from supporting small farmers like those linked through Fairtrade, caring for the local ecology, and protecting huge land masses from biodiversity loss. However as a business, that impact is multiplied many thousands of times, as we cook up and distribute meals each day.
Photo Credit: Poco Restaurant
Do you think restaurants are doing enough when it comes to food waste?
Any positive actions we can take as an industry will have a powerful impact on the environment. For example, reducing and redistributing our food waste prevents greenhouse gas emissions and possible pollution from its disposal, it feeds people who might of otherwise not had access to food, and saves all of the energy that went into producing that food from water, fuel, and pesticides to the ecology of the soil itself. A precious resource with the depletion of arable land through industrial agriculture.
Buying Fairtrade commodities such as coffee, sugar, tea and chocolate can help people around the world that have become exploited through a faceless food system where we have little connection with the origin of our food. Providing where possible infrastructure from schools to community projects, and fair incomes for workers and their families.
Photo Credit: Eduardo Martino
Veg-led cooking has exploded in recent times – do you think it’s here to stay?
I don’t think vegetable-focused cooking is a trend – plants form the basis of a good, biodiverse and rich diet. Nutritionists and scientists are virtually unanimous, in singing the praises of eating plants. It’s about time chefs caught up.
What ways can we all be more eco-friendly and help the planet?
The single most effective thing we can all do to help reduce our impact on the environment is reduce our waste. Check and write down what you are wasting, whether it is non-recyclable packaging or bits of food you could have eaten, then come up with a plan about how you could avoid that waste, buy inventing a new recipe or buying a different product. It will have an instant effect and save you money.
Each time we throw away a few vegetables or a leftover bit of food it seems insignificant, but this adds up to a considerable amount of food and money each year. The average household wastes about £950 worth of food a year! And that figure doesn’t even include the parts of ingredients I like to eat such as beetroot leaves, fibre-rich vegetable skins and herb stalks that are very nutritious and part of a Root to Fruit diet.
What’s next in the pipeline?
I’ve been working hard on completing a proposal for my next cookbook! I’m very excited by this prospect as I enjoyed writing my last cookbook The Natural Cook so much! My next book however, will be much more than a cookbook, it will be a comprehensive guide to eating sustainably, based on my cooking philosophy, Root to Fruit Eating.
We are in the midst of a sustainable revolution as big business and individuals awaken to our impact and connections with the earth.
At the same time food can be very complicated, and hard to understand, but at the core, the answer to eating good food that benefits us and the planet is very simple – eat for pleasure and care about your ingredients whenever you can. Whether that’s buying Fairtrade or shopping locally for seasonal fruit and vegetables. In my next book I aim to demystify the complexities making good food accessible for everyone wherever possible.
Favourite restaurant in London is:
Rawduck in Hackney is one of the most fun and successful experimental restaurants I know. They seem to take influences from all my favourite cuisines: Asian, Arabic and Mediterranean. But the food is simple and takes advantage of good produce.
Favourite place to grab a coffee in London is:
Monmouth Coffee, Borough Market. You can’t beat the hustle and bustle of Borough Market and the coffee at Monmouth is simply divine. They were around long before the micro-roastery boom! And it shows, through the quality of their coffee buy also the incredible engineering of there constant and gargantuan queue! Which moves so quickly.
Photo Credit: Monmouth Coffee
For more information on Poco Tapas Bar, visit the website here.