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Our Head Chef at Church House Westminster, Nick Seckington, shares his thoughts on sustainability, zero-waste and well-being on World Food Day 2019.

Question: What food trends are you seeing now?

The rise of flexitarians and vegans. Whether it is because of ethical, environmental or health concerns, there is a steady increase to make simple diet changes to help save the planet.

Question: According to a study from Oxford University food production is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. What measures do you take in the kitchen to reduce the impact on the environment?

Let’s drill it down even more: 13% of London’s total emissions are a result of food consumption. In the events industry, we must provide direction on what to eat. Ignoring this responsibility makes you part of the problem.

  • We donate leftover food that cannot be recycled to a local food bank.
  • When we cook, we aim to be zero-waste. There are no “good” or “bad” parts of ingredients. Using everything is key and we must think creatively about leftovers and aim to create taste from waste. For example, when we make a cauliflower couscous, whatever is left of the cauliflower is used making bhajis, dhal and soup.  We also like using what we call ‘seconds’, fruit and vegetables that are misshapen or the wrong size. There is essentially nothing wrong with these fruits and vegetables. We also source our produce seasonally and locally from suppliers as much as we can.
  • When Church House Westminster signed up to the Meeting Industry Association (mia) #20Percentless campaign last year we banned single-use plastic. We use Vegware cups, made of plant materials and it is composted with our food waste.
  • Used coffee beans are recycled into bio-fuel pellets
  • We also recycle crisp packets that are made into sustainable furniture.

Don’t be overwhelmed! Start small, with what is manageable. Small changes have an incremental impact and will ensure a permanent commitment from team members and suppliers.

Question: How do you ensure your menus are sustainable?

  • Using as much local produce as possible. Cooking with the seasons.
  • There are some conundrums when it comes to plant-based food. For example avocados are sometimes imported from far-flung countries which add to unnecessary food miles and technically avocados are not vegan as it is pollinated by bees.
  • It’s important to keep in mind that we can fight climate change by eating our greens. By not eating animal products for ONE MEAL a day and choosing a plant-based option can have huge environmental impacts such as saving litres of water.

Question: Share with us your tips on healthy eating and wellbeing  

Eating less meat is not just good for the environment but also beneficial for overall wellbeing. You don’t have to become a vegetarian. The idea is to eat less meat (and better-sourced meat). It is worthwhile considering that beef has a higher foodprint(!) than chicken.  Do your best to eat more fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, and pulses which is of course healthier. Benefits include better cardiovascular health, lowering your risk of diabetes, clearer skin and having more energy.

I like to start the mornings with our energy bites and smoothies. Dates, nuts, and berries will stimulate the brain and creativity. Another good choice is oats with its natural sugars.

Our working lunches offer a choice of healthy salads as add-ons, in addition to the build-your-own salad selection. Event organisers can choose from a range of protein add-ons and vegetable add-ons from as little as £1 per person.  Most menus can easily be made vegan or gluten-free.

In the afternoon, boost your mood with blueberries and energy bites such as our irresistible raw chocolate and pistachio brownies.

Question: Our new menus for 2020 have now been published. What should we look out for on the menus?

Lots of innovative menu ideas, with fresh flavours, colours, and textures. There is plenty of choice for vegans and gluten-free diets.  Our Wellbeing Lunch for which we make a charitable donation for every menu sold includes a variety of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

Take a look at our new catering menus for 2020.


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