Stop Food Waste Day 24.04.24

Tell us a bit about your background and experience in the kitchen? What inspired you to become a Chef?

“I am from Brazil and grew up around friends and family members who really enjoyed cooking but had never cooked in my life until I came to the UK.

I moved here 21 years ago, but for the first few years worked in an administration and accounts before I decided to pursue my passion for food and completed a 3-year diploma at the City of Westminster College, London.

My passion for food stemmed far beyond just wanting to curate tasty dishes – I wanted to discover where food really came from and how to experiment with different textures and flavours.

From here, I have always worked in private catering companies and much prefer the innovation and creativity this environment offers compared to restaurants. I love working with different people and ideas to create new and exciting menu options to suit client tastes and occasions – from weddings to large corporate celebrations.”

What types of foods do you enjoy cooking with?

“As a pescatarian who is passionate about sustainability, I really enjoy cooking with fish and a wide range of vegetables.

Since joining Camm & Hooper, I have worked hard on expanding the variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes on offer, while integrating sustainability into our menu planning and execution.

This has ranged from implementing food waste bins and using the surplus from foods to create other dishes – for example, I use the skin of fish to create base for my canapes and integrate the skin from onions into our whipped butter – to using more local, UK based suppliers and opting for food choices that are seasonal.  However, this in itself is a challenging task as every dish we create needs to be easily replicated and scalable to be served at an event.

There are so many delicious vegetables on offer that people are completely unaware of and have never tried. I genuinely love introducing clients to new vegan and vegetarian dishes and in educating them on where the food has been sourced from and how it has been created… all with sustainability in mind.”

What are the main challenges of implementing sustainable choices into your menus?

“The ultimate sustainable journey food is from nature to your plate and then back to compost.

The impact of BREXIT combined with a significant increase in costs has meant it has become difficult to source certain foods. Implementing variety into menus and adapting to seasonal foods, while also sourcing quality, UK-based suppliers has enabled us to overcome this and ensure sustainability remains a key focus in our planning and execution.

However, sustainability moves beyond menu choices. In catering and hospitality, we operate in a world where the use of plastics is high through vacuum packs, cling film and gloves – just to name a few examples.

We are proactively working hard to measure our carbon footprint and ensure our kitchen is completely plastic free within the next 5 years. Today, we are collectively working hard to embrace a dedicated eco-conscious philosophy that will ultimately position Camm & Hooper at the forefront of sustainability in the events management sector. A key part of this is to become a zero waste establishment, however this is a lot more challenging in the events sector compared to standalone restaurants, like Silo in London.

The steps we have made so far are extremely positive and a true reflection of a shift in perception amongst our amazing and passionate team.

Ultimately, I believe that to really become a sustainable entity, you don’t need to have a certificate – you need to have change in mindset and for people to understand why we are working towards this goal.”

How are increased food & drink and supply chain costs impacting the sustainability agenda in Hospitality?

“Pre-COVID, it was really easy to source and supply different foods, including a variety of vegetables. But in the current economic climate, it is really expensive to buy quality produce – particularly meat and fish. Meat is now really costly.

Although a big challenge, I think this in itself can drive a shift towards sustainability, by inspiring Chefs to opt for the more cost-effective vegan and vegetarian dishes and to use as much of the produce as possible, i.e., using the skin of vegetables for sources as opposed to throwing them away.”

How have food trends changed in recent years and how do you see these trends evolving during 2024 and beyond?

“Our menus now have a lot of vegan and vegetarian food options, with more and more consumers shifting to a vegan or even flexitarian type diet.

Rewind 10 years ago and there were hardly any individuals with dietary requirements at an event, but now it is in excess of 25%. I think this is a combination of people being more aware of food intolerances and an increased focus on gut health and what they actually put into their body.

I think food trends will evolve in line with cultural shifts. For example, it is actually the younger generation who are driving veganism/vegetarianism as part of a healthier lifestyle.

To truly accommodate and excite this audience, Chefs need to move away from lazy options like mushrooms, and instead look at the wide variety of vegetables that are on offer and to really cook and curate dishes with them.”

How do you educate clients about sustainable food choices? And how are dietary preferences influencing future of sustainable in event catering?

“More and more clients are choosing entire vegan/vegetarian options for their events, which would have been unheard of 10 years ago.

I think this is driven by both cost and sustainability, with corporate clients in particular understanding the benefits of choosing vegan and/or vegetarian dishes over meat.

I also think education and taste testing plays a big part – whenever I present new dishes and they have the option to try lots of different flavours together, it blows their minds, and they are happy to trust in our creations and try more and more.”

It’s clear from chatting with Cristina that making our food more sustainable isn’t just a one-person job—it’s a team effort. And under her guidance, our culinary crew is mixing passion with action to help our planet, one dish at a time.

Get in touch now, and together we’ll craft an eco-friendly event that leaves a lasting impression, not a footprint!