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Top chefs tell us how they support sustainable food systems Part 2

Published on September 01, 2011

As we get set for the Picnic at the Brick Works this October 2, we turned the microphone over to our participants who have supported this event from the beginning.

We asked some of Toronto’s top chefs to tell us what they do, and what we can all do, to support a sustainable food system. See Part 2 of our responses below, along with some excellent portraits taken by photographer Edward Pond.

Check out Part 1 here!

Steffan Howard (Photo: Ed Pond)Steffan Howard (Photo: Ed Pond)

Steffan Howard
The Pegasus Hospitality Group (Palais Royale Ballroom, Casa Loma)

What are five things you do to support a sustainable food system?

We do our best to educate and encourage all of our guests to think as locally and as organically as possible when we customize menus for their events. For example, we have done a number of traditional Chinese weddings in the last few years where we been asked to make shark fin soup, but were able to convince our clients to proceed with other sustainable options that they were extremely happy with.

The area where I personally can say I have made the most changes is in mentoring our younger cooks. I make sure that they have the right tools and information so that as they grow and blossom as cooks and chefs, thinking locally and organically is the norm.

Bettina Schormann (Photo: Ed Pond)Bettina Schormann (Photo: Ed Pond)

Bettina Schormann
Earth to Table Bread Bar

What do we need to do, or what more can be done, so that we’re in a better place in the next five years?

Two things.

  1. Everyone needs to learn how to cook. If you don't know how to cook then you are a slave to convenience food.
  2. Realize that we waste too much and over-consume, with most going in the garbage. We need to simplify our lives and not assume that everything should be available all the time. Two examples that most people understand are strawberries and corn. Both are at their sweetest and crunchiest in season when we wait for them. All food has a similar story we never hear—just ask!
Sean Clayton and Tawfik Shehata (Photo: Ed Pond)Sean Clayton and Tawfik Shehata (Photo: Ed Pond)

Sean Clayton and Tawfik Shehata
The Ballroom

What have you done in the past five years to change the way people eat?

Chefs and foodies have the opportunity to try new things every day, but most people don’t know where to go to get the best product. When you can share with someone the simple pleasure of eating local corn or tomatoes—let them know where to find them when in peak season and allow them to experience the difference in flavour—it is a plus for everybody.

What do we need to do, or what more can be done, so that we’re in a better place in the next five years?

We need to educate the masses. Having a relatively small portion of the population follow guidelines for ethical eating helps, but if everybody understood all the long-term benefits of a sustainable food system, they would be more eager to put a lot more thought into how they eat.