There is no better way to understand the value of this special project than through the eyes of those who live it every day. For this reason we met Chef Rodrigo Sardinha, who through his words and beautiful dishes, took us behind the scenes of Refettorio Gastromotiva to see how they have consistently responded to the ever-evolving needs of the community since 2016.
As a graduate of Gastromotiva’s Professional Cook course with a special focus on Social Gastronomy, Chef Rodrigo is currently one of the Head Chefs of Refettorio Gastromotiva. Famous for his zero-waste approach, he cooks delicious meals daily by using every part of an ingredient believing that through education everyone can have access to nutritious food. His mantra in the kitchen? “Pay attention to how food looks, because we eat with our eyes first”.
How has the pandemic changed the way we think about food and the resources we consume?
The pandemic brought us an important alert. Much of the population has no access and no choice about how and when they will eat. Meanwhile, another has great access and for various reasons, they do not plan but instead misuse the food they consume and consequently the planet’s resources, harming health as well.
With more time at home due to quarantine, more were able to cook, and began to access the key information to start a necessary change. Thinking about the menu, planning the purchase, and using the food in its entirety should be a rule not only for amateur cooks but for professionals as well. Only then, with access to information, can change happen.
What are the most wasted foods you have witnessed at Refettorio Gastromotiva? Can you give us a couple of examples of how the food that is discarded can actually be transformed into healthy and nutritious meals? (it would be great if you could share a recipe prepared with the surplus food recovered by the Refettorio Gastromotiva)
What we received the most during the 5 years that I’ve been here are bananas, due to the climate of our country, they are found in all regions. We created several recipes with it, both with the pulp and the peel. The one we receive the most of is the silver banana and the most classic recipe with banana peel is to use it in bread crumbs.
It’s a simple process: season the banana peel with shojo and garlic, rest for half an hour, then bake the bread in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes at 180 C; grind it to make the flour. Dip in flour, egg, and bread crumbs, and deep-fry. Enjoy your meal!
What is the role of a Chef in creating a more sustainable food model? And what is that of other actors such as companies or public institutions in driving this change?
It’s understood that his choice has an influence on food systems and the food market. As more chefs aim at the sustainability of their restaurants, the chance for movement to grow is much greater, as many are seen as examples. This growth brings several benefits to the entire production chain, to the product, and to the final customer.
Companies and public institutions should increasingly connect with this pillar. Many are already starting to take this issue more seriously, primarily due to consumer demand. Bringing solutions, knowledge, and investment so that the consumption of sustainable producers is directly linked to its final products has already become a rule and it grows more and more.
Not all of us are chefs but we can all do something to improve our food system.
How does the way we eat and consume food affect people’s health and the well-being of the planet? What advice would you give people at home to become more responsible for the food we eat? Everything is related to education, we reproduce what we learn. I had a really bad diet as a teenager because my parents worked all day and didn’t have time to cook. I understand that it was what they could offer me due to the routine they had and the same happens with many families, it is a systemic problem. As I work with food, I had the privilege of having this awareness, re-educating myself, and today understanding all my choices. Therefore, my advice is to always seek knowledge on the subject and especially encourage children to have contact with food and learn where it comes from and how it is prepared.
What is the role of the new generations of chefs in driving this change? How can they help promote this message?
As a chef I always challenge myself, looking for new techniques. I study the basics of cooking, but always thinking about possibilities to break these rules and make preparations that can be more than a recipe in a book. You have to challenge yourself, test yourself, be honest about whether the preparation work, and otherwise try to think of new solutions, but never give up! So I see that driving this change is out there, in the challenges and in how new chefs think about their entire production chain. It is necessary to support small producers, to know the origin of the products we buy.
Can you give us an example of a ‘sustainable’ menu that you have prepared for the guests of the Refettorio so that people at home can get inspired?
Once we received almost 1 ton of tomato that we had to use in a maximum of two days. So, we made what we call a 360º menu: tomato on every dish, starter, main course, and dessert. And what really impressed me that day was dessert, because we made tomato ice cream. We also made a tomato jam with some spices. It was a success. And the main thing was that on that day we used tomato in full in all dishes.