Forward Thinking With Plant-Forward

Sam Morgan, our Group Executive Chef explains our plant-forward approach:

Whilst we should not ignore the march of many towards plant based and vegan food, it is worth remembering that it isn’t the only option if you wish to eat less meat, be healthier and help to save the planet.

Here at The Venues Collection, we are focused on giving our customers and their delegates more choice. We believe in helping them to make educated choices, but without banning any ingredients.

We are adopting a ‘plant-forward’ approach across all of our venues. Plant-forward or plant-based diets focus on foods that come primarily from plants. This means that a plant-forward diet has lots of the good stuff we associate with a plant-based diet such as whole grains, legumes, seeds, veggies, nuts and fruits, but meat and dairy aren’t off the table completely. Plant-forward meals put plants at the heart of the meal, so the plant-based elements are the ‘star of the show’ but the plate will still contain meat or fish. The meat maybe a smaller cut for example, and be served as a side dish or to complement the plant elements. If you think about it, many of the traditional meals we eat are already plant-forward – think of salads and pasta dishes, curries and stews.

Vegan diets only contain foods derived from plants. Said another way, vegan diets completely avoid all animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs.

‘Plant based’ is a term that has grown in use; but how does it differ from being vegan? Veganism tends to describe not just the food a person eats, but the lifestyle they lead. A vegan for example would not wear leather, use cosmetics tested on animals (or that have animal derived ingredients) or eat honey. Whilst plant-based simply describes the diet that the person follows; choosing to eat food that is not derived from animals. To many ‘Plant-based’ feels more accessible and achievable than going fully vegan. In 2021 more than 821 new vegan products and menus* were launched to co-inside with Veganuary, and many were marketed as ‘plant based’ rather than vegan.

Our focus is to give our customer more choice, so whilst a huge percentage of our food is vegetarian or vegan, we do still include responsibly sourced meat and fish and we also look to reduce food waste by utilising the whole of the animal, and by using underused cuts such as brisket, belly, chicken legs etc. Our lunch menu for example is comprised of around 30 to 35 different elements such as salads, dressings, main dishes and bread items etc. 75% of these different items are vegetarian or vegan, and all of our salads, soups, side dishes, dressings and garnishes are veggie or vegan too. Our evening restaurant menu is 65% meat free too.

We are also looking to make the meals we serve include a more diverse range of ingredients and to include many of the ‘Future 50 Foods’ into our menus. The Future 50 Foods report was published in 2019 by WWF with the aim to promote and encourage the transformation of our food system to create a more sustainable and diverse way of eating. Did you know, that globally we rely on a very small range of foods? 75% of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and five animal species*. Just three (rice, maize and wheat) make up nearly 60% of the calories we get from plants*. My mission over the next year is to work with my team of chefs to include more diverse, wholegrain and less refined ingredients whilst ensuring they are sustainably sourced and carbon to increase the diversity of the ingredients we use whilst ensuring they are sustainable and low climate impact too.

We are working to develop climate labelling that states the carbon emissions per dish or portion, and calculate the calorie counts of the food we serve across all of our venues. This will give our delegates the information they need to make informed decisions to choose low climate impact meals and to cut their C02 emissions.

To find out how we can help you to make informed decisions about the food you serve at your events, please contact the sales team on:

*Figures from Veganuary and the Future 50 Foods

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