Heidi Spurrell is the founder of Food Made Good (FMG) Hong Kong. Her work in food policy with London and Amsterdam-based sustainability NGOs and The Worldʼs 50 Best Restaurants Sustainable Restaurant Award programme has led her to create this platform that will drive sustainability within the Hong Kong dining scene.
The FMG programme is based on the UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), which had its Asia launch in June this year and uses the global perspective that Heidi has gained over the years to ambitiously improve Hong Kong’s F&B industry, transforming it into one where sustainability is the norm.
We spoke to Heidi to find out how it all works and how Hong Kong’s restaurants are faring in the food fight towards a low-carbon lifestyle.
How did you get started with the Sustainable Restaurant Association?
We first encountered each other at a joint event between the SRA in London and another NGO where I was working at the time who were also trying to drive change in the food service industry. We combined our efforts to bring our common goals to the fore in the alternative protein space, asking what role chefs could play to encourage the shift towards increased plant-based diets. We did that by bringing together stakeholders from industry, academia, government and NGOs, in many ways similar to what you are trying to do with the Food’s Future Summit.
How does the rating system work?
The rating is completed by members online. It captures businesses’ activity across our three pillars: Sourcing, Society and Environment. Simply put, it’s the food on the plate, your relationship with people and the impact on the planet.
Once a business completes their survey, we calculate a percentage score for each key area, and the overall sustainability score is an average of those percentages. A business may achieve one, two, three or no stars, depending on their score. We not only give you a report summary, but set a benchmark, show your year-on- year progress and offer opportunities through actionable recommendations. We help to set targets and can handhold through the next steps.
What kinds of recommendations do you usually find yourself giving restaurants?
The recommendations we give to restaurants vary hugely from one business to the next. Some may want help finding a new supplier; others might want advice on how to put together a policy on waste. Our rating delves into each individual business, making sure that the recommendations we provide are tailored to them.
How did you get involved with The World’s 50 Best?
FMG has worked with The World’s 50 Best for a number of years, initially judging the Sustainable Restaurant Award as part of The World’s 50 Best, now extending to Asia’s 50 Best, Latin America’s 50 Best, Asia’s 50 Best Bars and The World’s 50 Best Bars. The World’s 50 Best realised the importance of sustainability within gastronomy and the power that these world-leading chefs have to influence what, and how, we eat. So the idea for a Sustainable Restaurant Award was born.
How will Food Made Good work here in Hong Kong?
We will mirror the Food Made Good programme in London and create a platform that is inclusive, that serves not only the Michelin stars but the fast-casual dining space too. We need to create impact at all levels and to do so in an authentic and credible way. That is why we collaborate with professors, single-issue NGOs and government and businesses. No single organisation can do this work alone.
What restaurants in Hong Kong are doing things really well?
Peggy Chan at Nectar is a real rock star in this space, Pizza Express and MANA!, of course, but also some other newcomers like Roganic.
Do most restaurants do poorly on average?
Not at all. Some restaurants join as members and achieve three stars straight away, but it is also great to see restaurants in the UK who have worked their way up from one star to three stars over the years. Hopefully, this will be the case in Hong Kong too. No restaurant is able to claim 100% on a rating. It is more of an aspiration; we are all on a journey.
However, Peggy Chan is in a league of her own in Hong Kong and doing progressive work, especially in the sourcing of biodiverse ingredients. With Peggy, we looked at staff training and ways to motivate staff, which included sustainability training and personal development such as English lessons, and we highlighted the importance of team dinners.
How can restaurants get you to come and rate them?
As the rating is completed online, restaurants can take part in the rating in their own time, completing a section at a time over a number of weeks if they wish. We will be there to help and guide them through at any points if they get stuck though. Just get in touch!
To find out more about Food Made Good, click here