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Sustainable gastronomy: two chefs, one passion! In-between with Thomas Collomb & Aviraj Pareeague

July 2023. It's Sustainable Gastronomy Week. Thomas Collomb, Green Michelin Star and patron of the event, meets Chef Aviraj from Heritage Le Telfair. With 22 years of experience and a gold medal at the Young Chef Challenge 2008, Aviraj won the best gala menu and dish during Sustainable Gastronomy Week. A feat that has surely impressed Thomas Collomb. As a reward, he has invited him to spend a week immersed in his esteemed Michelin-starred restaurant. Both chefs come together to share their passion for sustainable gastronomy with Presence.

Thomas Collomb
Aviraj Pareeague

What are the key aspects of sustainable gastronomy?

T.C: Locally sourced ingredients and as many organic products as possible! Reducing waste through composting is important, too – all of our green waste is transformed into soil. Finally, sorting at source and ensuring ingredients are used responsibly.

A.P: Preparing food while minimising waste. It's a step in the right direction in the fight against world hunger and ensures that food remains available for future generations.

Are there any products or ingredients you are particularly fond of?

T.C: No favourites, as long as everything is locally sourced!

A.P: I like working with local ingredients that can be cooked in multiple ways, like breadfruit. Baked, steamed, boiled, fried, microwaved, grilled, barbecued, etc. it can even be turned into gluten-free bread or pastries.

What's your philosophy when it comes to cooking?

A.P: Working with locally sourced products helps manage costs and enhances flavours too. I don't like transforming the ingredients I work with too much so that I can keep their authentic taste and freshness.

T.C: Today, gastronomy has the duty to minimise its impact on the environment as much as possible. The culinary world must promote local produce and culinary traditions, even the smaller and lesser-known ones.

Any standout moments that came up during the Heritage Resorts' Sustainable Gastronomy Week?

T.C: Without a doubt, visiting the Château de Bel Ombre’s vegetable garden. I look forward to planting the seeds given to me by the Château's head gardener.

A.P: Chef Thomas Collomb’s presence, of course. We learned a lot from his exquisite French cuisine and passion for sustainable development. It was an opportunity to hone our skills, experiment with new ingredients, and push the boundaries of sustainable cooking.

Can you give us examples of sustainable gastronomy techniques you have developed or refined?

T.C: We try our best to make the most out of surplus food. For example, we make carrot cakes from carrot peelings. We also turn the pulp from centrifuged vegetables into an aroma-filled powder.

A.P: Food preservation techniques such as fermentation or freezing. It extends the shelf life of the food, and it's just as delicious! There's also the transformation of ripe fruits into jams and vegetables into soups.

Why should people be encouraged to adopt sustainable gastronomy?

A.P: Because it's time we started to care for farmers, our loved ones, our health, and the planet.

T.C: Every day, we remind the young members of our teams to be mindful of their cooking techniques and waste. The most important thing is to educate them so that simple actions become second nature. Without guidance, they will unfortunately lack rigour and respect for the environment.

How do you see the future?

A.P: The way we produce food compromises our ability to feed ourselves in the future. Many of the challenges the world faces including climate change, water scarcity and deforestation, are related to food production. Changing how food is produced in Mauritius could help combat climate change and accelerate progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

T.C: I think and hope that in a few years, what we call today “sustainable gastronomy” will simply be the standard. It's just logical and common-sense cooking.

Photos by Marianne Louge, Meilleur Ouvrier de France in the Art Photography category and special guest for Sustainable Gastronomy Week 2023.

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