Browsing Tag

nutrition

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: DANIEL NOWLAND

May 19, 2016
Photo credit: Matt Monroe for Jamie Magazine

Photo credit: Matt Monroe for Jamie Magazine

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!

You can help spread the good-food word, too—tomorrow is Food Revolution Day! Join Foodstand at the farmers market for our Jamie Oliver recipe demo. Can’t wait to see you there.

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.

WANT TO BE FEATURED ON BEHIND THE PLATE?
DOWNLOAD THE FOODSTAND APP!

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.

Favorite meal?
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!

Behind the Plate

BEHIND THE PLATE: MICHAEL MOSS

May 11, 2016
michael_moss_salt_sugar_fat_author_foodstand_behind_the_plate

Photo credit: Daniel Sheehan

Michael Moss is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who has most recently developed an important and successful career writing about health, marketing, policy and corporate interests relating to the food industry. His illuminating book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, is a #1 New York Times bestseller and a must-read. In fact, Michael will be joining Foodstand’s Food Book & Film Club to discuss the book on Tuesday, May 17th—please join us!

How do you define good food?
It’s all good to me. Seriously. Well, maybe not okra, just because my mom made a pretty slimy version that still sits in my 8-year-old memory bank. And maybe not soda, which I’ve pretty much written off as pure evil. But just last week I made a cake for my 12-year-old’s birthday, and it was all salt, sugar and fat. And yesterday, I wolfed down some potato chips, also salt, sugar and fat (the sugar in the form of potato starch that our bodies convert to glucose.) For me, the issue is controlling that stuff rather than letting it control me. So day in and day out I’m looking to eat food that I cook from scratch, lots of vegetables (with the above mentioned exception) grown by farmers and farmhands who are fairly compensated, meat from animals that are treated as kindly as possible before they have one really bad day, and I try to keep a damper on the raging bliss point for sugar that both my boys have because they are kids.

Do you think big food can be part of a better food future?
No. Well, yes, but indirectly. The Food Giants have never been good at true invention. About the last thing they invented, in fact, was instant pudding, and that happened only because the company panicked that it was going to get beaten at this by a competitor. Their idea of a new product is one with a new package color. What they can do is buy up small start-ups that do invent stuff, and it’s these little entrepreneurs who are now racing to reinvent processed food to be low-cost, convenient, tasty and actually good for you, too. So if the Food Giants are smart, they’ll buy the best of these entrepreneurs and hopefully won’t ruin them by scaling up.

What was your biggest challenge writing Salt Sugar Fat?
Cravings. I’d be spending time talking to the guy who figured out why potato chips are so irresistible, and it would take all the effort in the world to resist grabbing a bag for myself and pigging out. Just the talk, and extraordinary science the companies use, would send the reward centers of my brain into overdrive. (Once I finished, however, things changed, and now I can walk through the grocery store and just laugh at those chips, knowing all that goes into their design and marketing, which oddly enough empowers me to make smarter decisions about what to buy.)

What first inspired you to write about health and food?
A couple of FBI agents and a really smart editor at the New York Times. In 2008 I was in Algeria reporting on militants there when the agents showed up at the paper in Manhattan, looking for me. Since 2005 I had been traveling to Iraq, tormenting the Pentagon for failing to equip American soldiers with body armor, and then reporting on how the war was empowering terrorists to recruit new help, which the agents said had landed me on an Al Qaeda hit list. I hustled back to New York, and right into another war, this one over food. My editor, Christine Kay, had spotted an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts processed at a factory in southern Georgia that were sickening thousands of people, used by a $1 trillion processed food industry that had lost control over its ingredients, and Christine recognized this for the huge story it was. A year later, after investigating the industry’s shoddy handling of hamburger, I started looking at three things the industry intentionally adds to its products with huge repercussions of public health, namely salt, sugar, and fat.

Talk a little about “bliss point”—what is it? And how did you react when you first heard the term?
Well, as the food scientist who coined this expression, Howard Moskowitz, said, “What are you going to call it, `optimum sensory liking?’ ” You have to love the language the processed food industry uses to describe its efforts to maximize the allure of its products. Its people talk about “engineering” products to be “craveable,” “snackable” and have “more-ishness.” And the bliss point is right in there. It’s the perfect amount of sweetness, not too little and not too much, that sends us over the moon and their products flying off the shelf, and when I first heard Moskowitz describe this, I was sort of blasé. I mean, well of course the industry does this. We are creatures born to love sugar. Just look at our taste buds. The ones that like sweet are all over the tongue.

Do you think it’s possible to reset America’s bliss point?
The problem with the bliss point and sugar is not that industry has perfected the sweetness for cookies and ice cream, things we know as sweets and should be treating as treats. The problem is that the industry has marched around the grocery store adding sugar to, and engineering bliss points for, things that didn’t used to be sweet. So that bread now has added sugar and a bliss point for sweet. Some yogurts came to have as much sugar per serving as ice cream. And pasta sauce, forget about it. Some brands ended up with a couple of Oreo cookies worth of sugar in a tiny half cup serving, and what that has done is create an expectancy that everything we eat should be sweet, which is a problem especially for those little walking bliss points for sugar called kids when you drag them over to the produce section and try to get them to eat some of that okra. Instant rebellion.

 

WANT TO BE FEATURED ON BEHIND THE PLATE?
DOWNLOAD THE FOODSTAND APP!

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I’m first of all a reporter, and so I still get a big kick from crawling inside the underbelly of the processed food industry to discover some new, totally surprising scheme on its part to get us to not just like its products, but to want more and more. But I’m also spending time these days working on my speaking, with some pretty good success, and so I’m having great fun holding an audience captive for an hour or more, telling my food story, and the most rewarding moment is when someone tells me the book or the talk has changed their life.

Are you making a food resolution this year?
Not to make tacos for dinner more than twice a week. My kids are actually pleading for this. My wife is working long hours, so cooking has fallen to me, and boy is it hard to go week to week without boring the shit out of the family with the same old recipes.

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?
What do you mean barely? Didn’t Cruz say he loved eating cheese on cheese? He would have been perfect for the dairy marketing schemes I wrote about that tripled our consumption to 33 pounds a year on average by moves like stuffing cheese in the crust of pizzas. And Clinton recently came out for the soda tax, which I’ve come to like. I’d ask the now-presumptive Republican nominee to champion the use of smarter marketing practices by the produce industry to sell more vegetables, and thus nudge us all toward better health. Didn’t he hear they were all aphrodisiacs?

If you could get the general population to change ONE aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
I can tell you what one Food Giant’s chief technical officer did when he blew out his knee and could no longer run marathons to burn off calories. He stopped eating his company’s own products, cold turkey, knowing that he was one of the many of us who couldn’t stop eating snacks until the whole bag was gone. He also stopped consuming calories in liquid form, that is drinks, which I think is really interesting. I’m trying to do the same, and thankfully everyone knows that wine and beer don’t have calories.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I was a latchkey kid at age 10, and loved to come home to strawberry Pop Tarts. Then just a while ago, I was visiting the secret R&D facility of Kellogg’s in Battle Creek, Michigan, where way off in the corner someone was cooking up a huge batch of Pop Tarts, and wow, the aroma wafted over and took me right back to childhood. It’s incredible what those memories can do.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Taking pictures. In a war zone. I was so glad I went to Iraq as a reporter, not a photographer, because they have to shoot while the bullets are flying and that’s totally addictive. It was hard enough for me to give up reporting on war, and I wasn’t even a war reporter, but rather just dabbling.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
I’m a little nuts about sourdough bread these days, so in my fridge is a starter, and in the freezer is a variety of flour. Friday night after family movie time I’m usually in the kitchen plundering the starter for a Sunday bake.

What’s your favorite meal-on-the-go?
Lately, walking down the street, I like a nice handful of pistachios in the shell.

How have your eating habits changed since writing the book?
Not terribly. We started eating better in my house when my now 16-year-old son was born, thinking that was one thing we could do to avoid ruining him. More recently, after reporting on some shocking experimentation undertaken by the Department of Agriculture to make farm animals more profitable at the expense of their well-being, I’m pretty ruined even for taco trucks unless I know the chicken or ground chuck is not industrial and instead comes from animals the USDA hasn’t ruined.

Sugar, salt, and fat continue to be at the forefront of food discussion—e.g. “sugar is the new fat, fat is the new delicious…” What are your reflections on the book given the current environment?
I love that “salt sugar fat” has become a thing. But I have a confession. As much as I focused on them, and the industry’s own deep reliance on them has been getting us into trouble, the solution is not to just dial back on salt sugar fat, which all the Food Giants are now racing to do, concerned about losing the trust of consumers. The biggest way to better health, nutritionists tell me, is getting more vegetables and other good stuff into your mouth, which the companies have lots of trouble putting into their products.

Your good food wish?
That we should all be so lucky as to be in love with food and with eating.