Published 2 months ago.
About a 6 minute read.
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A unique partnership between a Japanese pizza chef and a CEO dedicated to regional revitalization created a ‘cook’s sanctuary,’ where cooks and the public can connect and learn about the importance of food sustainability.
Food is one of the most crucial elements in efforts to achieve societal
sustainability; but there are a wide range of issues posing challenges to food
sustainability — including deforestation, water resource depletion, abnormal
weather due to climate change, and many kinds of environmental pollution. In
light of this, eating and drinking establishments that understand the necessity
of achieving food sustainability are now working to implement sustainable
We spoke with a chef who operates a sustainable restaurant in Japan and
others working with him to help tackle challenges relating to food
Masakazu Iwasawa — owner and chef of Pizzeria Gtalia da
Filippo, in Kamishakujii in Tokyo’s Nerima
Ward — is a top chef who won the title of world’s best pizza maker at the
World Pizza Championship in Naples, Italy, in 2006. He creates superb,
unique pizzas using a domestically produced wheat variety that he developed
himself and carefully selected ingredients sourced from producers around Japan.
In addition to running the restaurant, he is involved in a variety of projects —
including community partnerships and a project supporting healthcare
professionals. His efforts have been recognized, with Pizzeria Gtalia da Filippo
earning a three-star sustainability rating from the
Sustainable Restaurant Association Japan. The pizzeria also won the Procurement
at the Food Made Good Japan Awards 2022.
“Currently, awareness of sustainability issues in Japan’s restaurant industry is
unfortunately not as high as it should be,” Iwasawa said. “Of course, there are
cooks and food producers who are strongly aware of such issues, but their
numbers are still limited. Efforts by small numbers of people won't bring about
societal change. It’s crucial to raise awareness among larger numbers of people
and that we all work together on advancing sustainability initiatives.”
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One of the sustainability issues that cannot be solved by chefs alone relates to
ingredients. The use of agrochemicals and chemical fertilizers in agriculture
has allowed humanity to produce high-yielding fruit and vegetables with
dependable, unvarying flavors. However, Iwasawa emphasizes the importance of
cooks learning more about fruit and vegetable production with more focus on
harnessing the energy of nature.
“I'm not dismissing the value of stable agriculture facilitated through the use
of chemical fertilizers and agrochemicals,” he said. “However, I’ve had
opportunities to go and work in the fields, and I felt that the energy inherent
in naturally grown vegetables was completely different to that of vegetables
grown with agrochemicals. That’s something you can only truly understand by
actually holding fresh vegetables in your hands. Having that kind of experience
by going to the fields and touching vegetables is something I believe cooks need
more of. It’s essential for food sustainability.”
Supporting Iwasawa in his endeavors is Masayuki
CEO of Sun-Crea Co, Ltd — a food producer and
self-described “social re-generator” committed to regional revitalization.
In 2020, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hosoba and his family relocated to a
tiny town in Ehime Prefecture called Matsuno (population: 270) on the
banks of a tributary to the great Shimanto River. There, he has worked on a
revitalization project for Mori-no-Kuni hotels
operated by the town government, while also looking to revive aging village
communities with a focus on forests, agriculture and food. He is also working to
— such as no-till farming and agrochemical-free methods — to unleash the
inherent energy of the local farmland’s water and soil.
“Iwasawa has been supervising a Mori-no-Kuni
Selvaggio. We make every effort
to use local ingredients. When thinking about sustainability, I believe it's
crucial that we remain sufficiently conscious of the fact that all natural
cycles are interconnected,” Hosoba commented. “Humans are also an integral part
of the broader natural world, and the meal in front of us and the world of the
distant future are all interconnected. However, as Iwasawa mentioned, it's not
easy to understand these concepts without actually coming here and seeing and
touching things for yourself.”
Regenerative agriculture is aimed at repairing the soil and contributing to
environmental restoration. It is also expected to help curb climate change by
promoting carbon capture, improving water circulation, and restoring
biodiversity — which makes it a critical component of food sustainability.
“Properly understanding that the ingredients of our meals are a part of the
Earth’s environment is crucial. Knowing the ‘origin of food’ is meaningful for
the general public but holds even greater significance for cooks and chefs.”
One can't truly understand without going, seeing, and touching. So, let's create
a place where people can do that.
To create a hands-on learning environment, Hosoba and Iwasawa are creating a
“cook’s sanctuary” in Matsuno — a place where young cooks and chefs from around
the world interested in Japanese ingredients, climate and culture can learn
about and try out cooking while feeling for themselves the cycles of nature.
They have already developed new recipes using local ingredients and hosted
events where local residents can taste their dishes.
“Japan is fortunately a very peaceful land of gourmet cuisine. In this country,
food is not merely about satisfying hunger,” Iwasawa said. “I would like
Japanese cooks to give more consideration to their social responsibilities in
using ingredients to create and serve dishes. There are many wonderful regional
dishes and ingredients across the country that cooks should work to discover and
pass on to future generations.”
Drawing on the experience he gained in Italy, Iwasawa provides pizzas brimming
with the energy of their ingredients to the people of Matsuno. He hopes to
inspire a wider world of food — including cooks, local culture, agriculture, and
consumers; and beyond that, the future of food.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association Japan is also lending its support to
the creation of the “cook’s sanctuary.” Executive director Takeshi
emphasizes that the focus of the “cook’s sanctuary” shouldn’t only be on the
activities of cooks and food producers but should also extend to raising
awareness and generating demand among consumers.
“While regenerative agriculture is garnering attention around the world, it's
not yet well understood in Japan,” Shimotaya explained. “Sharing the wonderful
efforts of Iwasawa and Hosoba in the form of a story that will help consumers
understand their aims and lead to consumers proactively selecting sustainable
food will contribute to making the restaurant industry, food producers and food
itself sustainable. To achieve this, we intend to collaborate in a range of
areas, including planning and publicity.”
Food-related issues concern all of humanity. There is not a single person who is
not connected to it. Whether as cooks, food producers or consumers, everyone
needs to come together now to work towards achieving food sustainability.
Published Dec 15, 2023 2pm EST / 11am PST / 7pm GMT / 8pm CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.