Regenerative restaurants

Tim Lynch is on a mission to help restaurants reduce food waste and emissions.

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The third largest contribution to greenhouse gases is food waste, occurring at every stage to the journey from the farm to the plate. Increasing social and customer expectations of sustainability mean the restaurant sector needs to move towards a carbon neutral, transformative and regenerative economy. The current upward pressure on wage rates, in a traditionally low wage sector, combined with a shortage of workers, mean that the question is now being asked: What does an economically viable culinary arts sector look like? 

Senior Lecturer and chef Tim Lynch has begun research into this question, the answers to which might look different in different restaurants. Part of the picture is the role of culinary arts education in this reset, to ensure new chefs coming into the profession understand the issues and the options to contribute to achieving carbon neutrality in their workplaces. Simple actionable steps identified already by ākonga (learners) include having a smaller rubbish bin and putting the clingfilm out of sight, as well as using more advanced techniques such as dehydration and fermentation to use what would otherwise be food waste.

It is also helpful to see the workplace as a place of learning. As an example, Tim reflects on what he learned from a window-cleaning venture with a friend as 9-year-olds. Their motivation was earning enough to buy hot chips and gravy - not that they were hungry, but this gave them a sense of autonomy and agency. Cold-calling, they learned that socially isolated people were most likely to agree to let them clean windows because the boys were meeting a need for conversation. The boys responded to their social environment - and so can restaurants now.

Carbon neutrality conversations are full of big scientific words and uncomfortable acronyms, but chefs generally have little leisure to read or grapple with the issues.  Tim Lynch is therefore simultaneously exploring the use of different visual media to communicate his research as it progresses. He will post TikTok and YouTube videos breaking down the issues and offering perspectives. He welcomes feedback from working chefs and restaurant owners who want to grapple with sustainability and to contribute their own thoughts and ideas to the conversation.

October 2023

Timothy Lynch

Senior Lecturer
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Published on 11 Oct 2023