Millie Simpson is kitchen manager of London's Sauce by the Langham cookery school. She tells Katherine Price about her trip to Copenhagen last month to help design an international academy led by Noma's René Redzepi to teach chefs to be more sustainable
How did you get involved in René Redzepi's project?
I was lucky enough to have been put forward by my management and chef Michel Roux Jr, who oversees all the food and beverage at the Langham.
I felt incredibly honoured to be there – it was an amazing group of people from all over the world from all areas of hospitality and the food industry.
What was the format of the event?
We went back to school, essentially – we had open discussions, seminars, lectures. It was an amazing, open experience where people were able to share ideas, but also speak about how sustainability affects their career, their industry, and what they were hoping to do about it.
What did you discuss?
We had some faculty facilitators with us who led discussions on leadership and sustainability. On top of that, other speakers were brought in – Redzepi led some of the talks and some of the speakers were from different parts of the industry. A geologist from the University of Washington taught us that there are some types of farming that are no longer viable. It's our responsibility as chefs to diversify menus, to create the demand for lesser-grow foods. And a soldier from the Danish military talked about how to lead a team and create a sustainable workplace.
What was the purpose of the week?
We were the first group to experience this programme, so we were very much giving feedback as much as we were trying to come to conclusions ourselves about what we can go back and start doing in our own areas
Is there anything you would like to implement in your own kitchen?
It's about looking towards the lesser-used foods – obviously upping the vegetable content on menus, but also looking at ingredients and saying, ‘how much can I get out of this?' Or using the byproducts of the food that we're already using, so perhaps doing more of that processing ourselves in the workplace.
What did you take away from the experience?
It was refreshing to have an optimist's perspective on sustainability when as a concept it can be overwhelming. But anything you do is better than nothing. You can feel quite bogged down and useless when you look at the big picture, but there's a lot more we can do, both on the small scale and through collaborations with other industries.
What can chefs do in the meantime to educate themselves about sustainability?
A lot of it is as simple as reading – there's plenty of information out there, both science- and businessbased. It's also about having those conversations with farmers.
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