Bruno Loubet on a mission to make vegetables the star

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd August 2014
bruno loubet With Grain Store, Bruno Loubet’s concept of a vegetable-based restaurant, recently winning a number of awards, it looks like the industry is at last waking up to the importance of eating less meat. The Staff Canteen met up with Bruno to discuss his mission to change the world’s eating habits. What is the ultimate goal of Grain Store as an enterprise? I want to prove that you can eat very well by eating less animal protein, that you can do very interesting food and it can be a sustainable business; that’s really what I believe in. What way it’s going to go exactly I can’t really say today but that’s what I see for the future. Why is making vegetables a more prominent part of our diets important? Apart from the environmental and financial implications, a massive consideration is health. Now it’s been proved that eating too much meat, and especially red meat, causes certain cancers and other diseases. So to me it just makes sense: it helps the planet; it makes people more healthy; even if you are a bit selfish and only look at enjoying yourself, when you start to eat more vegetables, you start to appreciate things in a different way. For me now if I don’t have a lot of veg I’m not happy; I don’t feel I’ve eaten well. How have you implemented these changes in your own life? I prefer to have a small piece of meat which is delicious than to have a big steak or half a chicken just for the sake of it. It’s especially important as a chef because in our world you’re always eating things like chicken with pasta or a ragout of meat or something just because it’s there and obviously you taste a lot of things so you end up eating a lot of meat which obviously isn’t very healthy. Bruno in the Bistrot - Photo by Amy Murrell I still eat meat, fish, cheese and dairy products; I’m just far more careful than I’ve ever been before. Before we opened Grain Store I thought, well actually I should apply all this to myself otherwise it’s not honest to do something that you’re not doing yourself; so I started to be more disciplined and started cutting down on meat and in the space of three months I’d lost 12 kilos just by doing that. I was still eating as much as I wanted, and believe me I’m a big eater! How did you first get into the idea of cutting down on meat in our diets? About two years ago when I started to do a lot of research and started to look at things very seriously, I had this idea in my mind and I wanted to do it but I didn’t really know what it implied for the world and the environment; I wasn’t thinking too much about that. Then I happened to be on a week’s holiday in Miami and I went to visit a very good friend of mine who’s from Australia; he and his wife are vegan and he said, “Bruno, I want you to look at this documentary film; I think you’ll like it.” It was called Forks Over Knives and is all about the health effects of our modern diets. That was a bit of a revelation; I watched it and thought, wow that’s the same as what I’m thinking but multiplied by ten. I started to realise that I was going in the right direction and actually there is much more that I can do than I was thinking I could do. Spiced lentil cake, cucumber salad, banana ketchup by Jonathan Lovekin There was also a bit in the film where it showed how they’re deforesting the Amazon to grow soya beans to feed the pigs in Europe, for example, which is crazy and doesn’t make sense. You need 10kgs of grain and something ridiculous like 350 litres of water to produce a kilo of beef; if you actually use this water and grain for human consumption, you would be far more efficient. When you know that there are parts of the world that can’t even feed themselves and we’re doing this; that’s criminal actually. And when you think that we’re fucking up the planet from all this meat production which we don’t need anyway, it’s ridiculous; all these things are mad. So that’s how it started, then of course you start to link with all the other people who start sending you things and you start to become aware of lots of other things that you hadn’t even imagined or thought about before. What kind of things? I was sent one video of a factory in China; you could call it a farm, but let’s say farm-factory; it was a massive, massive barn, the largest barn you could imagine; it looked like 20 football fields. Inside they had this machine like a combine harvester and these guys were driving this machine in the barn and in front of them it was just full of chickens and the machine just rolls over and cuts up the chickens and they come out the other side dead and with no feathers on. I was so shocked I genuinely thought it couldn’t be real. In another video there was a farm that had a big round platform; you see the platform turning, then you see the backside of a cow then two and three and so on; you don’t really know what’s happening; then the camera pans out and you see more and more and then you see that there are maybe 200 cows on one turning platform and a machine automatically milking them, but again it looks unreal, almost like something from a science fiction film because you just wouldn’t believe you could fit so many animals in such a small space. Steamed seaweed sushi, braised pak choi, black garlic puree, hake in vanilla butter by Jonathan Lovekin There was another one with pigs where they’re in an area so small they can’t even move; They’re lying on their sides and it’s so tight that they need a machine to come and turn them over to the other side. When you see all these things, which are just disgusting, you realise there must be a better way to do things. Do you think concepts like Grain store will catch on and we’ll start to tackle these problems across the whole industry? If we can get it into people’s minds and have more and more restaurants doing what we’re doing at Grain Store or more magazines writing about it and doing recipes; if it becomes a bit more of a norm then who knows, in 25 years maybe we can look back and say we did a good thing because we helped future generations have a bit of a better life, or at least to survive because at the moment it doesn’t look very promising. Read more about Bruno and his career in our Staff Canteen Meets feature here.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd August 2014

Bruno Loubet on a mission to make vegetables the star