The Challenge

Chefs have a very important role to play in helping to create a “new normal” of rebalanced protein consumption. From food service to retail to trendsetting restaurants, chefs create millions of meals every day and influence both the food industry and general food culture. Pressure is mounting on the food industry to provide healthy, sustainable meals, with a better balance of plant vs animal protein, and that means chefs need the right skills and knowledge to play their part.

But the core of mainstream culinary training remains heavily meat and dairy focused, generally with little emphasis on nutrition or sustainability. Some skills providers (i.e. universities, culinary institutes and so on) are attempting to change this, but it’s by no means the norm to integrate sustainability into culinary training as standard and from the very start. And while there are now more modules and courses on vegetarian and vegan cooking, this doesn’t provide future chefs with the skills to recreate typical, popular dishes with less animal protein - a potentially easy route to diversifying and rebalancing protein consumption amongst consumers.

The time is ripe for a significant update to mainstream training to ensure chefs across food sectors are prepared for the future of food. There is an urgent need - and opportunity - to make it the norm to equip chefs with the knowledge and skills to create tasty, nutritious and more sustainable dishes.

Our solution

Forum for the Future and the University of West London have been testing how to integrate sustainable food and protein into mainstream culinary education. We’ve created an introductory programme of lessons to make it easy for time-pressed chef lecturers to integrate key sustainability themes and skills into the existing structure of most culinary skills modules.

Over the 2019/20 academic year, we are testing the eight lessons with students on two food management degree courses - one lesson per chapter of their culinary skills modules. Each three-hour lesson includes an introduction to key sustainability issues for that chapter (e.g. animal welfare or biodiversity), best practice for chefs, and a practical activity focused on traditional, widely-taught recipes, but with less or no animal protein, and more veg and plant proteins.

During this process, we are gathering feedback from the lecturers and students to refine the lessons and the support provided to participating lecturers. We’re also engaging with other skills providers, the food industry and culinary education influencers along the way. At the end of the pilot, we will produce a teaching toolkit, and a report on our wider insights and recommendations about what culinary skills providers can do to integrate more knowledge and skills for the future of food into their courses. We aim to work with more culinary skills providers over 2020/2021 to take up the programme, and potentially to adapt it for on-the-job chefs training too.

Our overall aim is to help transform mainstream culinary education in line with the knowledge and skills that chefs need for a more sustainable food future. Our pilot is just the first step. We hope it will empower more culinary educators to get started. We also want to inspire more discussion and action across industry, academia and the culinary arts world about the future of food and protein, the implications for culinary skills (and food industry skills more broadly), and how to enable chefs and other food professionals to reach their full potential in driving a widespread and rapid shift to sustainable, healthy diets with a better balance of protein. 

Join us

We would love to hear from culinary skills providers and others interested in collaborating, for example:

  • Universities and culinary institutes, in the UK, Europe or elsewhere, who’d like to receive our teaching resources and/or discuss additional pilots or support around embedding sustainability into their courses
  • Those already testing ways of embedding more sustainability knowledge and skills, interested to share insights with us
  • Food businesses and industry-side chef trainers, interested to explore transforming on-the-job training (e.g. through in-house academies or work-based training programmes)

Get in touch

For more information about Future Plates, the culinary training pilot, and the teaching resources and insights, contact Sophie Robins

Contact Sophie

Read more about our Future Plates project here.

Who’s involved