How do the chefs learn to place a greater focus on climate in their menus?
Peter Lutz: Climate-friendly cooking has to taste good to customers and, to achieve that, it must be as attractive as possible. Although we offer meat dishes, of course, meat is a major factor in CO2 emissions. So vegetable dishes and vegetarian alternatives are crucial if we want to reduce these emissions. So the fact that our chefs have access to inspiration – what’s more at Zurich’s top workshop for vegetarian cooking run by Rolf Hiltl – is very important.
The chefs are already qualified professionals – what do they get out of the courses?
Their normal training places a lot of emphasis on the preparation of meat dishes. The focus here is on vegetarian cooking, using tofu for example, and offering the maximum possible variety when it comes to side dishes. Particular attention is paid to different cooking methods, the imaginative use of herbs and spices, and unusual vegetables. In our experience, this gives the chefs new impetus and they make intensive use of their knew knowledge and skills. The positive feedback they receive from customers also motivates them to continue cooking in this way.
Which vegetarian specialities are particularly suited to canteen and staff restaurant catering?
National cuisines: dishes from Thailand and India and, of course, the Mediterranean. We have noticed that the customers are particularly appreciative when the chef is able to cook them authentically. Swiss-style Kashmiri Rice like we used make is likely to prove a disappointment.
Does this not require a lot of ingredients that are transported to Switzerland by air?
Not at all! Just think of Indian cuisine and all the aubergines and potatoes it uses – we rely on Swiss ingredients. Air-freighted food accounts for a considerable proportion of CO2 emissions. For this reason, we have already reduced their use by half.
In addition to seasonal ingredients, we also place great emphasis on Swiss vegetables that do not come from heated greenhouses. To this end, we launched a project with partners in 2013 which enabled us to source 126 tonnes of tomatoes and 61 tonnes of cucumbers grown in climate-friendly conditions from Switzerland. We work closely with our suppliers to achieve a high level of transparency.
What are the general priorities of the ONE TWO WE programme?
We would like to save ten percent of total CO2 emissions annually compared to the baseline year 2012. To do this, we have collaborated with experts to define quantifiable categories for tendering, procurement, operations and logistics. These categories provide guidelines for the individual sustainability plans in the restaurants. The supply of fresh goods from Switzerland is central as it means that we can reduce the use of air-freighted ingredients and products from greenhouses heated using fossil fuels. The next objective is to make the vegetarian elements of our menus attractive and develop them further: half of the meals provided by the participating canteens and restaurants are now vegetarian. Finally, we focus on how the operations themselves work. They should be as energy efficient as possible and produce as few leftovers as possible. We have been tackling the topic of food waste for seven years now.
And which climate issues do the customers highlight in particular?
That varies. In German-speaking Switzerland, people focus a lot on the facts: on labels like MSC and ASC for fish and the proportion of air-freighted ingredients used. In west Switzerland, the origin of the ingredients is very important to customers. In general, each restaurant operates individually. For this reason, we do not impose sustainability planning from a central desk. We give the individual restaurants scope to organise their operations as they see fit.