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Taste not waste

Updated Friday, 18th June 2010

Talking from a 'garden house' in Copenhagen, chef and purveyor of good taste Carsten Lunding of the Danish food company, Smagsdommerne, talks about their food education activities and efforts to reduce waste in the kitchen.

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Copyright The Open University


Interviewer: Carsten, could you tell me something about where we are and what’s been happening today?

Carsten Lunding: Okay. We are in a small house on the outskirts of Copenhagen. It’s called a garden house, which you are actually not allowed to live in during winter time, but a lot of people in Denmark do. And it’s a very quiet area, even though it’s very close to the city, and we have a lot of these houses. Usually, originally they were built for people who lived in flats inside the city, workers, and then every spring they could go out here and have a little vegetable garden and provide for themselves during summer. The children could come out and play and have some fresh air, and then, when winter came, they move back into their flats in the city.

And today this house has been hosting a very remarkable event, which has been a Dirt Café: a conversation between scientists and politicians and all kinds of knowledgeable people, who know a lot about climate and environment. So it’s a special day for the house.

Interviewer: Great. Could you say a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Carsten: I work as a chef and communicator of good taste, which means that I work with a lot of people who are into sensory science and know about our taste buds and the human ability to taste. And I try to connect that with everyday kitchen practice, and I do that by making presentations about taste, and teaching people how to cook, on the basis of knowledge about taste. But I also run a little restaurant and all kinds of food activities. So I’m a food entrepreneur.

Interviewer: Is your restaurant in Copenhagen?

Carsten: Yes it’s a canteen in the central part of Copenhagen.

Interviewer: And do you remember when you first became interested in environmental change issues? What sparked your interest – was it personal or political?

Carsten: I think it’s political, I have a background on sort of left wing politics, and I think environmental issues is a very basic part of that, so it’s part of my whole political point of view, I would say.

Interviewer: And do you carry that through to your professional?

Carsten: Yeah, because I mean working with food every day and with cooking, it’s unavoidable to also think about where the foodstuffs come from, how the vegetables are grown, how the animals have lived, and so on. So I think it’s important, but I also try to find a good balance between the sheer pleasure of eating a good meal and then trying not to eat stupidly. I mean you can think a little about it, but things shouldn’t, you know, I don’t think environmental issues or climate issues should overshadow the sheer pleasure of wanting something, and having it.

Interviewer: So what would you say motivates you at the moment or is there a particular project you’re currently involved with?

Carsten: Which project is that?

Interviewer: Is there something that you’re involved with currently that?

Carsten: Yeah. Up to and during the conferencing, we have been working in my kitchen with trying to create a “no waste” kitchen. Which is quite interesting, I think, because that is my immediate entrance into the climate debate, and I’m thinking that a lot of kitchens deal with the ecological foodstuffs from outside but I want to do some, I want to think about how you get your kitchen to work on a healthy basis, inside the kitchen, I mean, the way you treat the foodstuffs once they get in.

So we have tried to make a no waste kitchen, which means that all the things that we buy, all the vegetables and meat, have to be turned into food, and all the food has to be eaten. So we don’t accept any waste. Of course, if we need to throw out egg shells and things like that, but as a sort of headline for our kitchen we want no waste. And that is my project at the moment.

Interviewer: And that’s in your restaurant?

Carsten: Yeah.

Interviewer: Okay. And what do you expect to working on in relation to environmental issues in the next year and then looking a bit further in five years and then in ten years’ time?

Carsten: I think that that’s very hard to answer because I think to a lot of kitchens and chefs and a lot of people, generally, I think environmental issues is quite a sort of a wide spot on the map. And I think we are in for big surprises, probably, during the next five or ten years, that there’ll be things that might seem obvious when we look back. Or when in ten years’ time we will think it’s obvious but now we don’t even think about it.

Like a lot of, I mean, a lot of the environmental policies have been connected to the nation state. And then they suddenly found out that the transport between countries, the big ships and fleets that sail the oceans between countries, they are actually one of the biggest CO2 emissioners of the world, and I mean that sort of falls in between chairs. And I think we’re in for a lot of surprises like that. So, I think it’s very hard to predict, actually, and I think when we look back we will consider ourselves very stupid now.

Interviewer: But looking out over the next ten years would you say you’re an optimist or a pessimist?

Carsten: Well, I’m basically very optimistic as a person, in general. I think, I think it’s good that there seems to be a very deep agreement among 99 per cent of the scientists, where the problem is and also that there is, there are ways to solve the problem. And I think, I think the political process is moving faster than, you know, other cases actually. But, as I said before, I also think we’re in for a few surprises, so basically optimistic but also a little bit anxious about suddenly getting caught, big surprises.

Interviewer: Now could you just give us directions to your restaurant, I mean is it just for this week that you’re…?

Carsten: No, no, no it’s every day. I cook for the Action Aid which is a, it’s an organisation that supports development in the South, in third world countries, and I have the restaurant in their office, main office in Copenhagen. So I cook there every day.

Interviewer: And particularly for the COP15?

Carsten: Oh we don’t have any special activities, actually, it’s the same as usual. We have a lot of activitists there but that’s sort of, we have guests all the time so…

Interviewer: Great and have you had a good day?

Carsten: Yeah, I’ve so much enjoyed it and I was a little bit thrown into it because I didn’t expect to cook that much but it’s been good fun. And I’ve listened to the debate with a very big interest. So some of it is hard to understand, I think. I’m trying to get a little more clever every day.





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