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Making a difference – Heroes of Hospitality 2021

By: Reading Time: 5 Minutes

From the admirable to the pioneering, we look at the men and women who have stood out from the crowd or gone the extra mile for foodservice and hospitality during an exceptionally challenging period.

For many in the foodservice and hospitality sector, 2021 carried on where 2020 left off. It was another challenging year as the industry was again beset by government enforced lockdowns and restrictions that attempted to curtail the rampant Covid-19 pandemic. Foodservice footfall dropped dramatically. Industry events and shows were largely cancelled, rescheduled or re-modeled. Sales suffered, businesses hit the wall, scores of employees left the industry.

It was another year of grind and backwards steps for most. While some sectors, such as ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants, prospered most had to hunker down and wait for the tide to turn. Throughout this period, though, some individuals continued to blaze a trail or simply stepped forward to show that they had the backs of their fellow professionals. We look at those who stood out from their peers and made a difference.

Mette Lykke, CEO, Too Good To Go

Each year, more than one third of all food produced in the world is thrown away. This waste, much of it entirely preventable, accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Mette Lykke has been CEO of the Copenhagen-based start-up Too Good To Go since 2017. The Too Good To Go app allows users to purchase surplus, unsold food from restaurants, cafes, supermarkets and bakeries that otherwise would have to be discarded.

Mette Lykke, CEO of Too Good to go

Image: Les Kaner | Too Good to go

Lykke has been leading the team that is leading the war on food waste. Now present in 17 countries, Too Good To Go app is the world’s largest B2C marketplace for surplus food. It’s “win-win-win” solution means its partners can dramatically reduce the volume of food waste while recovering costs; users get food products at a great price – one third of the original cost; the planet, meanwhile, sees its resources used more sustainably.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Too Good To Go (@toogoodtogo.usa)

In August 2021 Too Good To Go published its first-ever impact report and announced its commitment to going “carbon neutral+”, going beyond carbon neutral in environmental efforts. Lykke and her team have proved to be too good to ignore.

Tom Kerridge, chef and campaigner

With 2.3 million children going to bed hungry in the UK in December 2021 alone, footballer Marcus Rashford (himself a ‘Hero of Hospitality – 2020‘ this time last year) and Tom Kerridge, chef and owner of the only pub in the UK with two Michelin stars, stepped up where their government would not. The two men launched their ‘Full Time Meals’ campaign in December, with Kerridge creating a Christmas Dinner meal for up to six people for just £10, using a Healthy Start voucher.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Full Time Meals (@fulltimemeals)

The Healthy Start scheme saw an increase in uptake from 47% of eligible people in September 2020 to 60% in 2021 due in part to the Full Time Meals campaign and the work of the Child Food Poverty Taskforce. “It’s heart breaking. No child should go to bed hungry but far too many do. It’s time to call full time on child food poverty,” said Kerridge.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Tom Kerridge (@cheftomkerridge)

Grace Young, author and campaigner

Cookbook author Grace Young is something of a reluctant hero. When not preserving Cantonese recipes in her cookbooks, Young is a self-proclaimed “wok therapist”, but in March 2020, she stepped forward to take on a new role. Young became a prominent advocate for New York City’s Chinatown restaurants and businesses in Manhattan that were struggling to survive both the pandemic and a virulent anti-Asian sentiment that was sweeping the US at the time.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von Grace Young (@stirfryguru)

Between March and June 2020, NYC’s Chinatown was effectively shut down. Out of 291 restaurants, only 29 remained open for takeout. In June 2020, when Chinatown did reopen with outdoor dining and 25% indoor capacity, restaurants struggled to operate in the narrow and crowded sidewalks. From June 2020 to March-April 2021, restaurants were operating at approximately 20-40% pre-covid levels.

Young began to document all of this in Coronavirus: Chinatown Stories, delivering lectures, using social media smartly and writing passionately about the effect of the pandemic on Chinatown’s foodservice operations. She became a local hero to the community and showed that those who can use their platforms for good can always make a difference.

Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald’s UK & Ireland

In October 2021 McDonald’s announced its global commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The move will include science-based emissions reduction targets and will see it join the SBTi Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign and the United Nations Race to Zero campaign. McDonald’s UK & Ireland, led by chief executive Paul Pomroy, announced separately that it would be leading the company’s global effort with the launch of its ‘Plan for Change’ – a comprehensive business and sustainability strategy to help it achieve its aim of net zero emissions across its entire UK and Ireland business by 2040.

In December 2021 Pomroy and his team announced that McDonald’s would open the UK’s first Net Zero Carbon restaurant too. The Market Drayton McDonald’s will act as a blueprint for future restaurants around the UK and has been designed to be net zero emissions standard in both construction and everyday operation.

Paul Pomroy publishes sustainability strategy for McDonalds GB.

Image: Mc Donald’s

This industry first employs the latest innovation in sustainable building design. It sees renewable power from two wind turbines and 92 sqm of solar panels, reducing the amount of energy the restaurant draws from the grid; walls have been insulated with sheep’s wool which might otherwise have gone to landfill; building cladding is made from recycled IT equipment and white household goods; its kerb stones have been made from 182 recycled plastic bottles; a Drive-Thru lane has been made from recycled tyres; a biodiversity garden and nature trail will collect rainwater from the car park and provide a habitat for frogs and other creatures; wall art is made from recycled polystyrene cups, fixed in place with potato starch from McDonald’s potatoes; and furniture is made from 100 per cent recyclable materials.

Pomroy and his team at the Golden Arches deserve golden plaudits for cutting through the greenwash that has long plagued the QSR sector and delivered meaningful, actionable change.

Ángel León, chef and sustainability pioneer

Ángel León, the trailblazing chef behind Aponiente restaurant in Cádiz, Spain, may be able to boast three Michelin stars to his name, but he considers himself “a man of the sea first” and a chef second. He has a radical way of approaching seafood with the aim of promoting lesser-known species on the menu and focusing on what are typically thought of in the sector as the “trash fish”, including plankton, Moray eel skin, jellyfish, sea worms and seaweed.

He also espouses new ocean products such as eelgrass (zostera marina), which contain twice the amount of protein in rice and are also gluten-free. The sea grains he has pioneered contain Omega 3 and are highly nutritious, completely sustainable and promote biodiversity.

The grains are hugely versatile, can be used in the same way as rice or pasta and eaten hot or cold. “Finding a grain underwater is something I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams,” he says. “We are aware that we have discovered something more transcendent than anything else we have done before. We have opened a door to the future.” He told my colleague Tina Nielsen.

Whether cooking wonderful, award-winning seafood for customers or advancing sustainability via a voyage of discovery, this man of the sea is taking gastronomy beyond the horizon.


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