SUSTAINABILITY MONTHLY MEET UP – CELEBRATE LOCAL AND SEASONAL: 11 APR 2023
MONO Interior & its signature delicacies,
In the afternoon, warm light seeps through MONO’s windows as guests filter into the restaurant, making their way through the leather foyer and across the terrazzo tiles to arrive at the vibrantly decorated chef’s counter. Atop the steel counter are in-season vegetables from Farmhouse Productions and an array of treats including black corn tortillas, raw cacao fruit and MONO’s signature alfajores: a reinvented Spanish confection oozing with dulce de leche.
The Future Green Team with today’s speaker Chef Ricardo Chaneton & Chunling Fong
THE BEST OF THE SEASON
Recently named as one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, 1 Michelin Star restaurant MONO boasts high-end French and South American fusion cuisine. At the helm of the kitchen is Chef Ricardo Chaneton, the driving force behind MONO’s commitment to locality and seasonality.
Having spent several years in France, Ricardo is instilled with a passion for seeking the freshest produce and building relationships with farmers and producers. This philosophy has carried over to his work in Hong Kong, where he continues to prioritise building connections with local producers to source the best possible ingredients. By sourcing native South American ingredients like chayote and tomatoes locally, Ricardo recreates the flavours of his Venezuelan childhood here in Hong Kong, recreating nostalgic memories of home.
Whether it be using seafood from a trusted supplier or working with local farms to source herbs and flowers, MONO commitment to locality and seasonality is apparent in every step of the supply chain. “Being able to know where the ingredients come from, all the people who harvest these things for you… it changes your perspective,” says Ricardo. Visiting the market each morning “to shake hands with people with soil in their nails and sweat on their foreheads” is, to Ricardo, “a beautiful experience”.
Famous for making their own chocolate, MONO sources cocoa beans from an organic supplier in Taiwan. Some cocoa husk is given to Chunling, our next speaker, for composting, while leftover chocolate beans are fermented to create chicha, a fermented Latin American beverage. As Ricardo says “fermentation is like conservation… and food is an act of love”.
Today’s treats: Taiwanese raw cacao beans and fresh in-season cherry tomatoes
FROM FARM TO TABLE
Ricardo also works hand in hand with the second speaker of the day, Chunling. As the founder of Farmhouse Productions, a local regenerative organic farm in Kam Tin, Chunling’s mission is simple: to produce good food with good agriculture. In 2019, Chunling made a leap of faith, leaving her 13 year career in advertising to fulfil her dream of becoming a farmer.
Guest Speaker Chunling Fong from Farmhouse Productions
The goal of regenerative farming is to maintain the natural balance of the land. Through methods such as companion planting, planting seasonally and of course avoiding chemical fertilisers and growth hormones, Chunling is able to improve soil quality, maintain local farming integrity and promote a sustainable lifestyle as a whole. By making compost, Chunling preserves the quality of the land, reintroducing life into soil that has been depleted by unsustainable commercial farming practices.
Chunling notes that “I often like to compare soil with our gut system. When your gut is working properly, you feel great, you have energy. That’s exactly the same as soil: when you have healthy soil, you produce healthy crops that capture nutrients that you can taste later”.
WORKING HAND IN HAND
Chunling recognises that working with local farmers can be challenging. Yet it can be made easier. For example, restaurants can define a local sourcing strategy, empowering the team to reach out to local farmers like Chunling. Supply issues can also be addressed by implementing more flexible menu language: saying “season greens” instead of “spinach,” for example, or using phrases such as “the daily catch”. It can also be helpful to keep stocks of essential ingredients.
Just like Ricardo, Chunling emphasises the importance of fostering a strong restaurant-supplier relationship. “Treat the farmer as your team,” she says “tell them about your overall vision, what you would like to serve…”. And lastly, restaurants can help farms out by using up surplus when possible, making jams, chutneys, oils, pickles, and “celebration” menus.
TASTINGS AND QUESTIONS
As this month’s meet-up draws to a close, guests sample the array of treats on offer. From chefs and small-scale suppliers to NGOs and farmers, the diverse range of guests form a dynamic crowd, generating lively conversation that continues through the afternoon.
The Sustainability Meet-Up Series is a monthly gathering designed to educate and empower the Hong Kong foodservice community – chefs, restaurateurs, FOH, BOH, suppliers and sustainability leads.
Inspired by our framework, the programme is curated to inspire the community in novel ways through which they can introduce small but significant changes to their sourcing choices, menu design, supplies, and more. We will continue organising talks and activities delivered by sustainable food industry leaders, on various themes linked to UN International Days and our three pillars – Sourcing, Society and the Environment.
Want to join our community of change makers? Get in touch to learn more about our Membership Programme.
Interested in more?
6 steps to turning messy ideas into concrete next steps with The British Chamber of Commerce3rd November
From Healthy Kids Menu to Asian-Inspired Delights: SpiceBox Organics Revamps Catering Services, Championing Sustainability and Clean Eating in Hong Kong12th October