In recent weeks my colleagues have got me hooked to Chefs Table; in each episode of this Netflix documentary a world renowned chef is profiled. The programme on Dan Barber –owner of Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan, who has rewritten the farm to table concept - struck me and made me consider what is, or should be, the purpose of a restaurant?
I believe an innate passion for food (whatever type that may be) is vital, as is a love for hospitality; these provide the beating heart of any good food venue. A friend said recently that cafes and restaurants are like living beings - they need to be nurtured and looked after as honest direction and integrity will provide a soul.
This is why so many different styles of restaurant can co-exist. We have a blossoming food scene in Southsea with well-established venues, modern eateries, coffee shops and cafes all side by side – each with their own purpose, story and charm that appeal to different people within our community
Yet aside from their own story and journey, should restaurants also have a sense of social responsibility? Not just in terms of public safety and hygiene, but in a far broader ethical sense?
I believe that the answer to this is yes. If your passion is food then working towards making that industry sustainable and ethical is common sense. This could be through the use of organic produce; supporting local farmers or food producers; or buying Fairtrade products. It could involve using renewable energy or compostable take out products. Or it could be making a commitment to local projects and community initiatives.
Ideally the type of social responsibility should be in line with the direction of the venue itself; we are all different and what is one man’s cause may not be another’s. For example a fine food business may have at its heart the use of local, organic produce; a fish restaurant may support local fishermen; a wholefoods shop may drive home the use of recyclable products. Community initiatives such as the food cycle project reuse surplus food to provide meals for those at risk of food poverty.
I would like to see more and more restaurants making these moves and us as consumers supporting them; although it may seem like additional burden on small business - it’s amazing how small steps can make a bigger difference to benefit everyone; and when this happens how much the community comes together. Give and the world will give back.