Gordon Ramsay today launched a PR campaign to challenge UK restaurants to use only fruit and vegetables that are in-season. In summary of his comments on the subject: a) he’s pushing quality ingredients b) he’s pushing a green agenda regarding imports from around the globe and c) he’s doing it in a controversial enough way to get some very good traction.
He’s built his credibility up to the point where he’s seen as an authoritative public commentator on such issues but the reason I label it a PR campaign and not a substantive campaign is that I’m sceptical about whether the idea is really workable on a large scale. He also threw in a swipe at Delia just in case the story wasn’t strong enough.
Having become widely reliant on international imports for produce due to the growing cost of labour in the UK, it would probably not be feasible to start imposing rules like what Ramsay is suggesting on restaurateurs. It would serve to push up costs and damage the excellent and varied cuisine culture we have in this country. Where would specialist restaurants get their produce from? Could some food options disappear?
The campaign seems to have some sound motives, but as Michael Holden from Reuters points out, it doesn’t do anything for the farmers in the third world who rely on the business from large supermarkets. And, apparently importing doesn’t impact the environment anywhere near as much as one might expect. In fact, driving to the supermarket impacts the environment more than importing a pack of Kenyan green beans.
I agree that it’s good to eat in-season, it makes great sense and is an easy way of maintaining constant variety, but when it comes to eating out, you should be able to get whatever you fancy that day, that’s the whole point. If restaurants are getting lazy, their business will reflect that. Where such a campaign could be targeted would be toward the supermarkets and any advertising to push seasonal produce would probably also affect restaurants.
How about starting by asking supermarkets to advertise what’s in season a little better?