When Passion Meets Purpose

Seeded in 2018 by Mayya Papaya*, Sustainable Food Days Lisboa is a vehicle for positive change which celebrates local, sustainable food in Portugal. Now in its second year, the event took Lisbon by storm with a week full of innovative workshops, talks and interactive cooking classes with chefs, entrepreneurs and change-makers from around the world. I was in the Portuguese capital during this time and had the opportunity to attend an interactive dining experience to discuss a topic that is very close to my heart: sustainable food. 

Three highly skilled chefs were tasked with serving up their version of what sustainable food tastes like: Colher de Pau – A Taste of Sustainability. What unfolded was a magical evening full of flavours, colours and innovative combinations using fresh ingredients from organic markets or foraging food forests. The word sustainable has been thrown around a great deal these past few years, to the point of almost losing its authenticity. It was therefore a welcomed breath of fresh air to have the opportunity to eat and discuss with likeminded foodies about sustainable food, what we can do to eat and consume more responsibly and think about what we put into our bodies. 

With a three course menu to tickle our tastebuds, each chef presented his version of sustainable food and reason for his choice of ingredients. First up was chef Alessio Marcato, a food chemist and technologist trained in Food Fermentation and who is deeply passionate about wild and rare food. Presenting a beautiful starter of snails cooked in a delicious herb sauce with corn pure, Alessio’s mission was to remind us that some of our best food is on our doorstep. Snails are plentiful in Portugal and available all year round, as are the herbs which can be foraged from forests around the country. The sustainability of ingredients in a dish, to Alessio, is as important as the feelings it provokes, alongside the flavour, taste and beauty. As a consumer, you would be surprised by how many ingredients you can find in forests which are incredibly nutritious and delicious. 

The main course was presented by Matheus Santos, a young Brazilian chef born and raised in bustling São Paulo, and who has worked across various kitchens, ranging from a traditional French Bistro to Brazilian Fine Dining. Mattheus served up slow cooked celery root with vegetable demi-glace and carrot pure. Interestingly, the celery root presentation resembled a piece of pork with the vegetable demi-glace tasting like gravy – a wonderful reminder that vegan cooking can be incredibly surprising and actually more delicious than a piece of meat. 

The finale of the night was presented by chef Nuno Queiroz Ribeiro, who after a long and international professional cooking career came back to Portugal in 2005 to champion and teach healthy cooking and eating. Using a staple Portuguese ingredient which is abundant throughout the country, Nuno prepared an orange creme brûlée using as much of the orange zest as possible to infuse the flavours and create an organic crust with pine nuts and coconut sugar. Nuno is passionate about getting back to basics and using ingredients that are readily available around us. In this case it was oranges, a staple fruit which is widely available in Portugal. A  reminder that we do not need to search far and wide for the best ingredients to create delicious and innovative dishes.

Colher de Pau: A Taste of Sustainability provided a culinary evening full of discussions and ideas, and an opportunity to witness three master chefs use their skills for the greater good of our planet. Chefs around the world have the ability to champion sustainable cooking by actively choosing ingredients which least harm our planet. However as consumers, we have just as much power to champion sustainable consumption. By understanding where our food comes from and making conscious buying decisions, we can as a collective spread awareness around the use of food and make it a natural choice to eat sustainably sourced food. 

*Mayya Papaya has been organising events & hands-on activities to connect and mobilise sustainable food communities around the globe since 2012 through her initiative, Foodisms. Her role as a social catalyst helped spark the collaborative project that is Sustainable Food Days Lisboa (SFD.LX) which is currently transitioning from a grassroots activity to the non-profit organisation, Sustainable Food Network (SFN). The SFN team is planning their third edition of SFD.LX for 2020 when Lisbon is the EU Green Capital of the year.

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