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Interview - Issue 6

Grown, Cooked and Served

Conor Spacey is the culinary director of FoodSpace Ireland - a catering company with a focus on social responsibility and sustainability that operates throughout Ireland, producing over 2m meals a year.
He has been a chef for over 30 years and is a member of the Chef’s Manifesto - a global network of chefs advocating for a better food future. He talks to Where the Leaves Fall’s editors, Luciane Pisani and David Reeve, about sustainability in relation to the food system and how it is one of the focal points of the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.

Conor Spacey plating up at a supper club in Dublin’s Ink cafe, Ireland.

Luciane: Thanks very much for talking to us. We’d like to start by asking who or what led you to thinking about sustainability in relation to the food system?

Conor: My parents. I grew up in a regular two-story semi-detached house and we grew our vegetables in the back. If it wasn’t in season then it wasn’t growing. That was just embedded in me, I didn’t know any different. So when I started working in restaurants and seeing waste, and seeing chefs ordering food from halfway around the world, because they like the idea of a dish they wanted to produce - rather than actually thinking about how sustainable that plate of food is - I wasn’t comfortable with it.

What I’ve learned with the Chef’s Manifesto is that you have to look at the global food system. Imagine me working here and thinking: “I can make Ireland sustainable.” That’s not going to make much of a difference globally. And if I look at FoodSpace, 85% of all the food we use is Irish. And what’s not Irish are things that we can’t get like tea, coffee, chocolate, spices, and exotic fruits. Food has to travel, but I think it was back then that I really noticed the implications of buying food out of season. You’re telling the customers that it’s okay to have strawberries in January and all these non-seasonal ingredients that have come halfway around the world.

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