Diary from the SIRHA World Cuisine Summit

Two foodservice consultants report from the SIRHA World Cuisine Summit, where experts lined up to discuss the issues that are changing the industry

Legendary chef Paul Bocuse may be retired, but when he calls, the crème de la crème of the foodservice industry will come. At the SIRHA World Cuisine Summit in Lyon he called, and they came in their numbers. Chefs, business leaders, campaigners and other industry heavyweights lined up to discuss their views on issues that are changing our world in a way never seen before. This event wasn’t just about the statistics, but what the brightest minds in the food industry think needs to be done to overcome some of the challenges the industry is facing.

Over 35 keynote speakers set out their visions throughout the day in interview style sessions of 10 minutes, moderated by British TV presenter Lucy Alexander (Homes under the Hammer) and Frédéric Loeb (executive director of the Summit).

This is the diary of two young FCSI Consultants lucky enough to have been able to attend an epic day.

10:00 – The Grand Opening

Guest of Honour Paul Bocuse came onto the stage to officially open the summit. He was inspiring and, while he only spoke for a few moments, the response from the floor was incredible. The first keynote speaker was Bob O’Brien, vice president of market intelligence firm NPD. O’Brien provided the audience with interesting views on global foodservice trends, and how certain products have evolved and changed the entire eating out experience.

He elaborated on how the movement of immigrants around the world influences local tastes, with reference to Britain, the only country that rated foreign cuisine as its favourite food. This was mainly due to the strong influence of the immigrant population of former British colonies living in Britain.

10:30 – Feeding the Planet

Keynote speakers included Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini and British campaigner Tristram Stuart. Petrini passionately explained we have lost 75% of our biodiversity over the last 100 years as a result of the farming industry favouring high yield crops and cattle species. He went to explain how intense farming is destroying the planet and why: “Future wars will not be fought for oil, but over drinking water.”

Despite over 1 billion people on earth not having enough to eat, a significant proportion of food is being wasted simply because of imperfections in appearance.

Tristram Stuart, well known in the UK for his ‘Feeding the 5000’ events, was next up. His key points were also about high levels of food wastage, even before it reaches the plate. Stuart wowed the audience with his shocking imagery displaying different types of waste from around the world. One vivid example was that of a bread manufacturer throwing away tonnes of the crusty ‘end’ slices of loaves of bread, because the supermarket chains they were supplying to demanded it.

12:00- Eating Better, Less and Differently

Among the six keynote speakers on this topic were the president of the French Foundation for Food and Health, professor Martine Laville, the leading French nutritionist Dr Jean Michel Borys and Chef superstars Michel Guerard and Alain Ducasse.

Laville began by explaining that consumer diets have a huge impact on global production balance, with our increasing liking for meat having the most negative effect on global warming and on the use of one of our most precious resources, water.

Chef Michel Guerard added a chef’s perspective to the debate and focussed on a simple theme which is fundamental to making people eat better. “The key to healthier eating,” he said, “is flavour. Without flavour, consumers will reject healthy food.”

He has learned that as eating remains the most accessible way to experience pleasure, his fellow Frenchmen did not want to differentiate between healthy food or pleasurable food. The key to increasing healthy food consumption in his opinion is flavour and taste, making healthy food pleasurable. This surely must be true of all nationalities, not just the French.

Dr Jean Michel Borys’ perspective was that a balanced diet, away from meat, would not only have a substantial impact on natural resources, but also on a number of health-related issues associated with the consumption of meat.

He left us with a very sobering thought to illustrate this: By 2020, unless we change our eating habits, over 552 million of us will suffer from diabetes.

12:35 – A Master Class with Alain Ducasse

To lift the mood, we were treated to an astonishing demonstration by Alain Ducasse. His theme was cuisine and nature and the strong relationship that remains between the two.

The cooking demonstration consisted of the grinding together of a variety of pastes for the audience to try. Ducasse was able to show how subtle changes in ingredient transformed the flavours and transported your taste buds to different parts of the world.

The demonstration was great, but our main aim was to meet the man himself. We fought our way through the dozens of journalists and unashamedly managed to get a photo with the legend. To anyone in the Foodservice Industry he is a celebrity. He remains the world’s most decorated chef, with not only one, but multiple three-Michelin-star restaurants under his belt.

13:15 – Unexpected Lunch

This was the moment we had been waiting for, not least because we were ravenous, but we figured that the lunch at the World Cuisine Summit was going to be something a bit special. What we were about to encounter was most definitely unexpected.

We were all given wooden boxes containing a brief agenda of what we were about to experience, and a set of plastic cutlery. Filled with anticipation and intrigue, we surged toward the lunch room, and to our amazement, what we discovered was an indoor street food party!

Omnivore World Tour is a selection of vendors from all corners of the globe, promoting “100% young cuisine” through the use of “pop-ups” and “food trucks”. Every food outlet featured something new and exciting, from handmade Dim Sum prepared and steamed right in front of you – to made to order Rum Baba, soaked right the way through in rum, straight from the bottle and topped with vanilla cream.

We believed there were two clear stars at this show. The first was the Grumman Street Food Taco Truck serving soft tacos filled with Sticky Pulled Pork, and topped with a Tangy Salad Garnish. The second, Fish Burgers by Ivan Shishkin, poached fish encased in a soft burger bun which had been dyed with sepia ink to give it a blackened look. Just amazing.

After lunch, we shuffled, almost reluctantly back to the Summit for the rest of the day’s speakers, which while very thought provoking were, we must admit, slightly overshadowed by lunch and the stunning presentations in the morning.

As much as we would have liked to stay for the cocktail reception in the evening, we had to catch the last flight back into London. The day had, as any good menu should, stimulated all of our senses. We had been shocked, enlightened and even amused by some of the messages on health and diet, and completely blown away by lunch!

Daniel Da Rocha and Rebecca Gibson, Coverpoint

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