Respect: that’s what it’s all about, according to the three chefs from Pizza East squatting amongst lush rows of salad leaves and edible flowers at a north London community-growing site. They are sampling the chive flowers that will shortly be used in the green salad at their Shoreditch restaurant; but this isn’t any old shopping trip. The produce grown on the site was lovingly tended by the very chefs that will soon be serving it up to London’s pizza-hungry public.
And that’s where the respect comes in. According to the chefs, the time they spend volunteering at the Organiclea growing site in Chingford helps give them a profound understanding and respect for the ingredients they use. So popular is the opportunity to work the land, a rota has been drawn up in the kitchen to make sure everyone gets a turn. There are also aspirations to take things one step further and grow produce on site at the restaurant or on a neighbouring rooftop. As junior sous chef Nicholas Fitzgerald puts it, they want the chefs to be at the heart of the ‘field to fork’ process, and “create a whole food system within the restaurant.”
This novel approach is not only popular with staff, but also has the potential to reduce food waste. When this year’s hot spring resulted in blemishes on the rocket leaves grown at the Organiclea site, the growers were concerned that the quality wouldn’t be up to restaurant standard - but the chefs were able to use their creativity and knowledge to come up with a (delicious) solution: rocket pesto. Although localising the food system is undoubtedly not a straightforward matter, passionate individuals reaping the benefits of relationships like these show it can be done.
Pizza East’s sustainability mission is evident in other items on its menu too - though customers may not necessarily be aware of this due to the minimalist menu style. Many artisan Italian ingredients are supplied by Slow Food distributor the Deli Station. Suffolk rose veal also makes an appearance – a brave choice considering veal is commonly misunderstood by the public. Whereas traditional white veal is to be avoided, due to the cruel way the calves are reared to keep the meat pale, British rose veal makes use of male calves from the dairy industry that would otherwise be shot at birth. When raised to higher welfare standards, it’s actually a rather good thing to see on a menu.
Restaurants in our On the Menu section are chosen by the team from Ethical Eats, the informal network of London restaurants and catering businesses that care about sustainability. www.sustainweb.org/ethicaleats.
Ethical eaters can help their favourite restaurants to go green by encouraging them to join the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7837 1228 to find out how easy it is to use your consumer power.
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