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The sprouting of a new food movement

19 June 2018

The sprouting of a new food movement

What do international development and fine dining have in common? At first glance, not much. But if you ask what is fundamental to the success of both, the answer is clear: agriculture.

That seed of an idea was borne out of conversations between Joan Roca, chef at El Celler de Can Roca (twice No 1 restaurant in the world), and Nicolas Mounard, CEO of Farm Africa, at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards in June 2017. Farm Africa has had the privilege of being the official charity partner for the awards for six years.

Since, it has grown into Chefs for Change, a new movement uniting the world’s best chefs with the world’s most remote communities in transforming lives through sustainable farming.

Each élite chef joining the movement commits to act as an ambassador for a development project that transforms lives of rural food producers through sustainable farming.

The movement was officially launched on Sunday at the Basque Culinary Centre in San Sebastian where Nicolas Mounard joined founding chef ambassadors Joan Roca, Gaggan Anand, and Eneko Atxa in a panel discussion at the #50BestTalks, which kicked off The World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards 2018 festivities.

On a day of talks packed with inspiration and innovation, we had the honour of opening proceedings. Will Drew, the Group Editor of World’s 50 Best, introduced Chefs for Change’s “holy trinity of chefs” and Nicolas Mounard, and the talk was underway!

Joan Roca was first up. Joan described the project his restaurant is supporting in Nigeria, which is helping farmers preserve their produce, so that they cut waste and earn more from their agricultural efforts. He finished with a passionate message for chefs everywhere: cook the world you want to see.

Joan Roca at the launch of Chefs for Change

Joan’s restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca, is rooted in Catalan tradition, and our next speaker, Eneko Atxa, chef at Azurmendi, could not be more connected and embedded into the Basque country if he tried.

Eneko’s commitment to working with local producers spotlighted the importance of looking beyond the ingredients on a plate to recognise the myriad cast of farmers behind each dish.

During the talk, Eneko explained that it is chefs’ responsibility to untangle and communicate these important farm-to-fork narratives, commenting:

“As a chef, our day job is to cook for the guest, but there is another side to our work: we are also cooking for a better future.”

Eneko Atxa at the launch of Chefs for Change

The final chef to speak was Gaggan Anand, who uprooted himself from his native India to Bangkok, where his eponymous restaurant Gaggan has been named Asia’s best for the last four years running.

True to form, Gaggan brought the house down with a rousing talk about the social, cultural and economic power of rice in Asia, and increasingly in Africa, and the role fire has played in human evolution.

Nicolas brought the talk to a close with a call to other chefs to back the movement. Nico spoke about how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 85 years behind their target of eradicating poverty by 2030.

In the coming months, the chefs taking part in the movement will visit their project in countries including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Peru, Honduras, India, Zambia and Benin, share the stories of the farmers they meet and report on how that project is contributing towards the achievement of the SDGs.

Working together, the hospitality industry has the power to transform the lives of the world’s most remote rural communities.

If you are a chef or work in the hospitality industry and are passionate about harnessing the power of food and agriculture to build a better world then we want to hear from you! Find out more about the movement by visiting the Chefs for Change website 

Photos: The World's 50 Best Restaurants