Food Policy: What does the gastronomic community have to do with it?

This piece first came out on Haut de Gamme on 20 June 2018. See the original post here.

Many chefs would prefer to shy away from politics. Yet the gastronomic community has a major influence on how we farm, what ends up on our plates and how we behave around food. 


On 11 June 2018, the Nordic Food Policy Lab launched the Solutions Menu: A Nordic Guide to Sustainable Food Policy. Rather than focusing on ‘hard’ policies like sugar taxes or bans on certain types of unhealthy foods, we chose to look at how alternative tactics can be used to transform how and what we eat.

One of the most successful stories of co-operation in the Nordic Region has been through the support of the Nordic Kitchen Manifesto. This ideology – first proposed in 2004 and backed by 12 chefs – quickly gained traction and captured the attention of many, including politicians.

One year after its inception, the Manifesto was given an official ‘stamp of approval’ by the Nordic governments. This, in turn, raised its status and brought New Nordic Cuisine front of mind. While political support was important, it was the chefs who ‘personified’ food identity, made it delicious, created a new culinary language and disrupted the traditional Nordic foodscape.

Fast-forward to today and it’s easy to see that there are changes to the ways in which food production and consumption is perceived. Heritage crop varieties are demanded by the food industry, the Nordic region is a hotbed of gastronomic innovation and a significant contributor to the creative economy and experiencing amazing meals is now a top reason drawing tourists to the region. A lot has changed in very little time.

The Nordic Kitchen Manifesto has inspired other regions of the world, including India. The new Indian Food Manifesto was drawn up in 2017 at the Tasting India Symposium and will be benchmarked to the Nordic Kitchen Manifesto.

At the global level, the newly launched Chefs’ Manifesto and Action Plan assists chefs to promote the Sustainable Development Goals through their daily work. This document – a kind of Nordic Kitchen Manifesto gone global – was developed by over 130 chefs from 38 different countries.

Food is tightly intertwined with complex issues like environmental degradation, climate change, cultural identity, animal welfare and health. This means that there are no quick fixes. But when done properly, food policies offer an integrated way to address some of the major global challenges we face. The gastronomic community certainly has an important role to play.

“A generation of international chefs have now expanded their role in society and redefined their profession by reaching a broader sphere of influence beyond the kitchen. All over the world, chefs have come to understand that they can use their knowledge, leadership, entrepreneurship and creativity to be part of the transformation of society.” – Basque Culinary World Prize

Interested in how you can influence policy?

Get inspired by clicking the links below:

  • The Solutions Menu: A Nordic Guide to Sustainable Food Policy details 24 ‘soft’ policy examples related to nutrition, food culture, public meals, food waste and sustainable diets.
  • The New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto summarises in ten points on purity, season, ethics, health, sustainability and quality.
  • The Chefs’ Manifesto is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and covers issues that that chefs are most passionate about working on. The Action Plan is a practical guide detailing simple actions that chefs can take in their kitchens, classrooms and communities to deliver a better food system for all.
  • The Indian Food Manifesto shows how members of the gastronomic community are working towards a sustainable food culture in India.
  • James Beard Foundation runs the Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change, giving chefs the opportunity to become educated and empowered to help advocate for the change that many have dedicated their careers towards.
  • Basque Culinary World Prize rewards chefs transforming society through gastronomy. Check out the work of the finalists and winners from previous years.

Do you have something that you would like to add to this list? Let me know by posting a comment.

Onions hung to dry in Odsherred, Denmark

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