A kitchen fully stocked with sauces and pots

Renewing our relationship to food

Renewing our relationship to food


Published on 16 November 2022

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As part of our commitment to develop new approaches and long-lasting impact, the team working to deliver RENEW’s first annual Biodiversity Parliament were keen to look at sustainable food options for the event.

Taste with a sense of place

Fortunately, on our doorstep we were lucky to find and work with the Ground Up Cookery School, who took us on a journey of discovery on foraged, sustainable, low-waste food options, enabling us to deliver a low-impact conference dinner.

Based on the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park, Ground Up Cookery School is surrounded by nature, local farms, and large and small producers alike. This sense of place is embedded into their approach which makes use of foraged, seasonal, local food, and a range of techniques including pickling, infusing, fermenting, and curing to produce amazing low-impact food and drink. With a clear commitment to developing sustainable, zero-waste practices, Ground Up Cookery engage, enthuse, and empower people to make better food decisions. This enthusiasm and ethos made them a natural partner for RENEW.

Ground Up Cookery initially ran a session for RENEW to introduce the potential for reducing food waste and the opportunities and additional flavours available from foraged foods. Full of enthusiasm, discussions with the Catering and Retail Services team at the University followed to see how some of these ideas could be adopted at Exeter and introduced into the catering for the conference. With a commitment to reduce the impact of food and drink across their service, the team were open to learning more and a dedicated training session was set up for Exeter’s head chef and five other chefs from the inhouse catering team.

The training, a waste reduction masterclass, set out options to repurpose traditional food waste items to improve sustainability, covering fermentation and foraged goods to augment menu options, to help reduce wastage, prevent over ordering, and create premium retail goods with little or no cost. Following the training, the team discussed how to apply these principles to design a low-impact, low-waste, conference dinner for RENEW and Ground Up Cookery then supported the catering team to develop a menu.

Food with impact

The resulting food and flavours led to a conference dinner with a difference, in line with RENEW’s desire to have a low food footprint and create impact. Colin, the Executive Development Chef from Ground Up Cookery attended the conference to share with delegates the philosophy behind the work; he said “it was great to see how the chef team applied seasonal, sustainable, preservation techniques, that utilised food waste and plant-centric options, they did a great job”. By helping provide training for the inhouse catering team at Exeter, RENEW also hopes this will help to create a long-term impact from the project, as the team applies some of the principles learnt across their catering services into the future.

If you are interested in foraging and ways to reduce food waste, you can find out more about Ground Up Cookery School on their website.

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