On a recent Food Tank and Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) panel chefs from East and South Asia talk about the importance of flavorful plant-forward diets that support environmental health.
The panel is part of a series to explore BCFN’s seven cultural pyramids. These pyramids — intended to illustrate the impact of different food groups on the health of people and the planet — provide a model for sustainable eating adapted to regional diets around the world.
Moderated by Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg, panelists include chefs Manjit Gill, President of the Indian Federation of Culinary Associations, and Peggy Chan, Founder of Grassroots Initiatives Consultancy.
According to recent research from the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, plant-forward diets can help reduce an individual’s carbon footprint and meet climate change mitigation targets.
Both Chan and Gill believe that eaters can adopt these diets without sacrificing taste. With each season, come vegetables that have “a different texture, a different color, a different flavor,” Gill tells Food Tank. He argues that these ingredients can be combined to produce exciting and delicious meals.
Chan agrees, but explains that more education is needed to encourage the shift to a plant-forward diet. In Hong Kong, for example, Chan encounters consumers who may not understand how to prepare vegetarian dishes in creative ways. “It’s extremely important that we integrate plant-based culinary [skills] into culinary schools and hotel schools,” she says.
Gill also believes that it is important to source local, in-season produce to obtain ingredients of the highest quality. Rather than focusing on year-round production of ingredients, Gill says that “food should be in harmony with nature.”
In Hong Kong, which imports roughly 90 percent of their food according to the country’s Food and Health Bureau, local sourcing can be a challenge. But Chan believes that individuals can take meaningful steps in their homes to adopt a more sustainable diet.
“Everything starts with the pantry,” Chan tells Food Tank. “Give your pantry a makeover and make sure everything is high quality.” She goes on to encourage consumers to source ethically whenever possible.
Chan also hopes that chefs will use their platforms to help facilitate the shift to a sustainable diet that celebrates local food producers. “Celebrity chefs are everything in Hong Kong, where we place a lot of emphasis on the tourism industry…we should be leveraging that voice to amplify the work of our farmers.”
Watch the full conversation below or listen to it on the podcast, “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” here.
Photo courtesy of Yuya Yoshioka, Unsplash