My take on sustainability

Norbert Niederkofler shares his thoughts a few days after the first edition of Care's

by Norbert Niederkofler
Care’s, “the ethical chef days”, a new (sust
Care’s, “the ethical chef days”, a new (sustainable) fine dining event wanted by Norbert Niederkofler, of St Hubertus at Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano, ended on 20th January. As reported by Carlo Passera (here and here), it was born with the goal of offering a new perspective on cuisine

Sustainability in the kitchen is a theme I hold very dear. And from this interest, this passion, the idea of Care's was born, the first edition of which took place this year, only a few days ago. It was a sort of pilot edition.

When I think about the concept of sustainability, I immediately recall an experience that was very significant and formative for me. I was lucky enough to be able to live for some time in an Indian reserve. In that very special, unique context, I could see with my own eyes, every day, the respect for Mother Earth that these people have always had. This convinced me that it is important to return to one’s foundations, to one’s origins.

It is therefore essential, for each one of us, to find a balance. With ourselves, first of all, and with nature too. Only after managing to find this balance of ours, we’ll be able to continue our journey, our growth, and to create some truly sustainable dishes through culture and experience.

Norbert Niederkofler

Norbert Niederkofler

It is only when we start to ask ourselves real questions, that we’re able to find some solutions. If we analysed our food culture in detail, observing our past, we’d discover that many dishes were created out of the necessity of using all we have at hand, preventing waste and making the best use of everything.

The example that probably best conveys this is pork. In agricultural tradition, when a pig was killed and butchered, it was then always used in all its parts, head to tail. This, in my opinion, is the first true step towards sustainability.

Thinking of the approach a chef should have today, it is necessary for us in this profession to do this job with passion and awareness, putting ourselves in the background, knowing how to listen to and respect the problems of small producers. If we begin to understand their difficulties and consider their needs, these producers will be able to give us excellent raw materials, thanks to which we can make great, balanced dishes.

I believe sustainability starts from these thoughts and concepts, but in practice it has of course many more elements. It certainly appears in the organisation of the work in the kitchen, in the capacity of building a team, in the attention you need to pay to the ideas of the collaborators beside us.

Interpreting and respecting our territory is also crucial. We need to understand our territory, never stop studying it, fully use its products so as not to cause any waste or useless garbage.

We need to understand how to regain the deep meaning of what we do, in order to look at the future of our children while rediscovering the knowledge and culture of our grandparents. This cannot happen overnight. I believe it should be a journey to be taken step by step. And most of all, it should never be a final goal, but always the beginning of a new research.