Tom Hunt: eco-chef and restaurant owner

The ethical chef and owner of award-winning restaurants in Bristol and London talks about the principles he follows in his business, as well as the responsibility of restaurateurs and chefs.

I have been into cooking since I was a boy. Mom did not allow me to eat a lot of sweets and I decided to go for the trick: cook them myself. I could spend hours making different types of dough and flour products, from baklava to brownies. Grandma loved to teach me all sorts of recipes, we could spend the whole day behind this lesson. My passion turned into a professional activity shortly after graduating from the university, where I studied art. While studying at university, I suppressed a deep passion and interest in cooking. Upon graduation, I took a job as a chef and worked with a chef named Ben Hodges, who later became my mentor and main inspiration.

The name “the Natural Cook” came to me from the title of the book and my fame as an eco-chef. I believe that the degree of ethicality of our food is much more important than its taste. Cooking that does not pose a threat to the environment is a special style of cooking. Such cooking uses seasonal, quality ingredients grown by locals, preferably with care and attention.

In my business, ethics are as important as making a profit. We have three “pillars” of values, which, in addition to profit, includes people and the planet. With an understanding of priorities and principles, it is much easier to make decisions. This does not mean that income is less important for us: it, like in any other business, is a significant goal of our activity. The difference is that we will not deviate from a number of established principles.

Here is some of them:

1) All products are purchased fresh, no further than 100 km from the restaurant 2) 100% seasonal products 3) Organic fruits, vegetables 4) Purchasing from honest suppliers 5) Cooking with Whole Foods 6) Affordability 7) Continuous work to reduce food waste 8) Recycling and reuse

The question is interesting. Every business and every chef has a different impact on the environment and is able to make positive changes within their establishment, no matter how small. However, not everyone can bring radical changes to the industry and, moreover, ensure its complete environmental friendliness. Many chefs just want to cook delicious food and see the smiles on the faces of their guests, while for others the quality component is also important. Both cases are good, but in my opinion, it is ignorant to ignore the responsibility that you incur as a chef or businessman by using chemicals in cooking or by producing a large amount of waste. Unfortunately, quite often people forget (or pretend to) this responsibility, giving priority to profit.

I look for accountability and transparency in my suppliers. Due to the eco policy of our restaurant, we need detailed information about the ingredients we buy. If I cannot purchase directly from the base, I will rely on accredited organizations such as the soil association or fair trade.

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