Chef Erick Moboti insists on sourcing ingredients locally, and refuses to chuck any scrap of meat away. Here he shares his cooking ethos with loveFOOD.
Cooking is my passion, and when I’m not at work in the kitchen I’m constantly thinking about new foodie ideas. Being Head Chef at Ashridge Business School has allowed me to put those brainwaves into action, while creating high-quality dishes at the same time.
We start preparations at 8am on a typical day in the Ashridge kitchen. That means waking up early with a nutritious bowl of cereal and Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ playing – all I need to set me up for the day.
Locality, locality, locality
A day in the kitchen starts with checking the food deliveries to make sure everything is accounted for and of the highest quality. We work closely with local suppliers to ensure that, wherever possible, our products are sourced either from the surrounding areas or, at worst, further afield in the UK.
It’s a sustainable way of sourcing ingredients, because it supports home-grown produce and reduces air miles. It also shows that wonderful dishes can be made from the ingredients people grow in their own gardens.
Being part of a hectic kitchen means planning is key to success. I create menu plans at least one week in advance, so I can research which foods are in season.
Ashridge’s tasting menu events require a little more planning. I’m currently sourcing ingredients for the Best of British fine dining event, scheduled for April 2014. We’ll use local produce (including homemade honey from the Ashridge Estate), and fuse UK-grown ingredients together: for example, Colston Bassett cheese from Nottingham and our own backyard beetroot will be blended to create a blue cheese and golden beetroot tart.
Buying from a local butcher creates strong ties within the community, and speaking to them face-to-face means we can find out where the meat has come from, and how it has been treated. Previous fine dining event dishes have included lamb sourced from a neighbouring farm, and other meat from a butcher just down the road in St Albans.
We prepare up to 700 meals (not including fine dining events) for clients, students and staff every day, so reducing food waste is extremely important when it comes to creating a responsible and sustainable kitchen.
I’m a keen advocate of using as much of a product as possible – a ‘nose-to-tail’ approach. This means that we use every edible part of an animal; not just the ‘choice’ cuts we are offered in Western supermarkets. For example, with pigs the cheeks and ears are used for crackling; the shoulder bones for stock flavouring; the blood for making black sausage dishes; and the trotters to make our own gelatine.
A tip for anyone who wants to reduce their food waste is to save any leftover vegetables and use them to create tasty soups. For example, in the kitchen when we trim the asparagus down for a dish, there is still a remainder left. Instead of throwing this out, we’ll use it to create a flavoursome asparagus soup.
We also reduce waste by ensuring that any packaging is correctly recycled. Food waste, although there isn’t much, is separated and put on the compost heap.
Throughout the day we incorporate sustainability into our preparations and processes, without compromising on the quality of food. This poses challenges for the team, but also encourages creativity.
Sustainability in the DRC
I am also a participant of the Ashridge MSc in Sustainability and Responsibility programme. It’s furthered my interest in sustainable theory and equipped me with the skills, knowledge and networks to change my focus and step into a new career path.
I'm actually in the Democratic Rebublic of Congo (DRC) at the minute, working for the Ministry of Agriculture. I'm creating social innovation programmes designed to boost sustainable home-grown food production, delivering school meals programmes in the Kinshasa area around the capital city, and working with farmers around the Kinshasa area to help them use their land and resources more efficiently.
This is a very exciting time for me, and for Ashridge. The social innovation programmes will enable me to work alongside young people to create a better, more sustainable lifestyle for Kinshasa farmers.
I leave my role as Head Chef confident that sustainability will remain a key feature of the Ashridge kitchen ethos. Working alongside a creative kitchen team assures me that the work we’ve done so far will not only continue, but be built upon.
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