Daniel Nowland is the Head of Technical at Jamie Oliver Ltd. What does that mean? (We had to ask too.) Basically, anything involving food values, ethics and sourcing is Daniel’s domain—he develops Jamie’s Food Standards, and implements them. So he helps spread the sustainable, good-food word across the world!
Tell us about what you do at Jamie Oliver Ltd.
My role is to manage Jamie’s food values, which affect how we run our business as well as set the tone for engaging with other organizations. The role involves a lot of learning, as the issues affecting our food systems continually evolve. I also then help to ensure we are in line with our own values, across everything we do.
How do you define good food?
I’d say it’s food that has been responsibly produced and responsibly consumed. Good food can include the basic nutrients we need to be healthy, as well as the pleasurable, less healthy stuff that keeps us smiling.
What does a Food Revolution mean to you?
I think it’s that moment of realization for people that good food is better for everyone, including the planet and the producers. It’s where people wise up to the dangers of too much cheap, processed food, and discover the benefits of consuming food more responsibly.
What does the food world look like post-revolution?
It is simply where people make well-informed choices about the food they source and how they consume it. Consumers will understand that price and value are very different things. Transparency in supply chains will allow consumers to select foods based on their values, tastes and quality. Consumers won’t be mislead or sucked in by multimillion dollar marketing campaigns for food that will slowly kill them and the planet.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Knowing that my job is to help drive positive change, and seeing the influence we can have with Jamie behind us. Working for a business with a real sense of purpose is an honour, and something that I never take for granted. There are few businesses in the world that genuinely put responsible behaviour and ethics at the heart of what they do.
What are the personal beliefs you have on the overall food system that make their way into your everyday business (e.g., curbing food waste, sustainable sourcing, local sourcing)? Do tell.
For me it is about animal welfare and livestock systems. My most memorable day as a food science student was when I visited a slaughterhouse for the first time. It’s where the penny dropped in terms of how animals we observe on farms are linked to the products on our supermarket shelves. It sounds silly, and kind of obvious, but it’s not until you see a large animal being slaughtered, and the process involved, that you fully appreciate the scale of the systems behind the supermarket meat aisle.
It did not put me off meat, but it made me very aware of what I was buying. I went on to work in the meat industry after graduating, and was aware that animals were living and dying in order for me to eat well, and to pay my mortgage. The compassion I gained working in this sector is something I have definitely brought to the Jamie Oliver business. I have helped to define standards for good animal welfare which we use internally, as well as spread through our relationships with other organizations.
If you had to make a food resolution this year, what would it be?
I believe me and my partner are in a good place already with the food we buy, cook and eat. We cook from scratch as much as possible and now make all of our own bread. However, I travel a lot, and therefore rely on food service in train stations, airports and hotels. I need to find ways to eat better food when I’m away from home. It’s really hard to make responsible choices when you don’t have your kitchen anywhere close. It’s really frustrating that food service doesn’t have the same level of transparency on things like animal welfare as the retail sector does.
What are Jamie’s sustainability practices?
We have a set of food values which include Ethical Buying, Environment and Waste as key topics. We believe when responsible practices occur in all three of these areas, we are helping to improve the sustainability of our food. Our Ethical Buying policy ensures all animal products in our business are from “higher-welfare” sources and our seafood is responsibly sourced. Our values in these areas not only determine how we run our business, but they also shape the work of our foundation, and our campaigning.
Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
Gosh… I could write a very long list! If I had to pick one, it would be to regulate the environmental footprint of livestock. i.e. incentivise producers to focus on more sustainable methods of rearing livestock, and discourage the mass production of low quality proteins, as the long term effects they have on human health, environment and sustainability are horrific.
If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Eat less meat, enabling you to buy better when you do.
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What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I was obsessed with TV cookery shows as a kid, and was never really interested in kids TV. I would then beg my mum to let me cook our family meals so that she could have the night off. By the age of 14, me and mum were sharing all of the cooking in our household, and generally all sitting and enjoying meals together as a family. I loved to be the one providing nourishment for my family through good food, although my early cooking was really basic (mainly putting things from the freezer into the oven!).
I remember working in a Fish and Chip shop on Tuesday nights as a teenager when Jamie Oliver’s “The Naked Chef” first appeared on TV. I was hooked and would end up getting orders wrong as I was more interested in the 14 inch TV I was watching. I’m not sure what I was more in love with, Jamie himself or the food he was cooking! I dreamed I would meet him one day, but never imagined I would end up working directly for him.
Not everyone has access to farmers markets or a wide variety of fresh, sustainable produce. What does Jamie recommend for those with limited resources?
We’ve never suggested that farmers markets are the only option for responsibly produced foods. Supermarkets stock some fantastic food too, but you need to be able to tell it apart from the rubbish they can also sell. Using supermarkets, but avoiding the poor quality processed foods is a good way to shop. Base your shopping on whole fruits, vegetables and quality meat and fish. Always read labels on meat, fish, eggs and dairy, and go for products certified for higher-welfare or sustainable sourcing.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t wrapped up in the food industry as seriously as I am now, I would have liked to be running my own small cafe somewhere. I’d love to be working in a food environment and working closely with the general public. I would of course be championing only responsibly produced food! A cafe with a view of the sea would definitely be a bonus.
Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
A few years ago I’d have said Jamie Oliver, but I’ve done that many times now! I would love to have dinner with John Cleese. He is a comedy hero of mine, and I’d love to spend the whole evening talking about Fawlty Towers. (It’s a British comedy about a small chaotic hotel made in the 1970’s). Ideally in a good British country pub drinking beer and eating a beef and ale pie.
What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
My favourite food-on-the-go is a burrito from Chipotle. I get the chicken burrito in the UK, or the Tofu Sofritas if I’m in the US!
What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
My fridge trick is to always keep the drained fat from bacon or sausages in a jam jar in the fridge door. I then use it for sweating vegetables or making pasta dishes, as it gives a lovely salty, smoky depth to food, without having to add any actual meat.
What was your biggest #foodfail?
My biggest #foodfail was when I was working as a chef in a pub in my teens. I was serving a roast beef lunch to around 100 guests after a wedding. I had miscounted the plates and servings, which meant around 10 guests never received any meat. The bride was in tears and blamed me for ruining her wedding. The groom was so angry a fight nearly broke out too. It was a day I was glad to put behind me.
Aside from lovely British food, my favourite food is traditional Greek. I spent all of my childhood summers in the Peloponnese, which is the Southern mainland of Greece. There the food is very local, seasonal and extremely fresh. My most favourite meal is a simple Greek salad, crusty bread and fresh fish. Whilst I’m tempted to keep it a secret so that it never becomes too busy, this place is probably one of the best spots on earth to enjoy a Greek salad, local table wine and fresh fish whilst looking out to the Aegean Sea!
Your good food wish?
Think about every item of food you buy. Every purchase of food is a vote for the system it came from!