#11 | Rosalind Rathouse - Cookery School: Champion of Sustainable Cooking
Did you know one-third of all food produced around the world doesn't make it to our plates? That’s about 1.4 billion tons or enough to feed 2 billion people each year.
In this episode of the Sustainability Matters Today podcast, I interview Rosalind Rathouse, founder of The Cookery School at Little Portland Street and #Champion of Sustainable Cooking.
The Cookery School offers classes on simple, straightforward, and delicious cooking using sustainable methods and ingredients. They hold a Three Star Rating – the highest possible – from the Sustainable Restaurant Association for the last 8 years making them London’s only and most sustainable cooking school.
I had the privilege of taking an Indian food cooking class at the Cookery School and it was fantastic! Everything Rosalind describes as far as their approach to sustainability, fresh ingredients, and teaching style is true - I was really impressed. If you have the chance to go to a class at the Cookery School, I highly recommend it!
Please make sure to subscribe to the Sustainability Matters Today podcast to learn more about other champions of sustainability like Rosalind.
I hope you enjoy the episode!
Cookery School website: cookeryschool.co.uk
Farmer’s Market: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farmers%27_market
Sustainable Gastronomy Day: .awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/sustainable-gastronomy-day-2019
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC): msc.org
Red Tractor: redtractor.org.uk/choose-site
Soil Association: soilassociation.org/
Climate Activists Protests: time.com/5683293/climate-activists-french-britain
Wasted: The Story of Food waste by Anthony Bourdain:.imdb.com/title/tt6207096
Obesity and Food Waste: foodsustainability.eiu.com/us
Sustainable Restaurant Association: thesra.org
Delphis Eco: delphiseco.com
Daniel Hartz: Thank you so much for joining me, Rosalind, really great to have you on the show.
Rosalind Rathouse: Such a pleasure to be here because the message, the sustainable message, is so important. So I'm always really thrilled to be able to share that.
Daniel Hartz: Great. And I'd love to hear more about it because these cookery school has such a strong sustainability ethos to it.
But before we go into that, I'd love to hear a bit more about your background and how the cookery school began. So, I guess first question is, when did you know you wanted to cook professionally?
Rosalind Rathouse: Well, this sounds really strange, but back in the day you did domestic science at school and I really had wanted to domestic science and cook, and I was a teenager. My father was a doctor and my mom and he wouldn't have dreamt of allowing me to do that. I had to cook recreationally at home because my father thought I ought to have been a doctor and never was a doctor. And I never really had any aspirations to be a doctor. I always really wanted to cook.
Daniel Hartz: Got it. So you have a medical career--Never was quite the calling.
Rosalind Rathouse: No, it's set was enough.
Daniel Hartz: And at what point did the cookery school begin?
Rosalind Rathouse: Cookery School began because I was a study skills tutor and I was teaching a boy who needed to do retakes and he had to take a year off, that's the way the system works and to go to university, you have to, as you know, attend certain grades.
So he took time off. And then I was seeing him all the while. And he said, once he’s redone his retakes in his year off, what am I going to do now? And there was nothing that he fancied. And I finally said, what about learning to cook? And he said, I'd love to do that. And there were no cookery schools in London that had a space with him. There were only two major schools that he could go to then, and they were both far. So I said to him, if I had time, I would teach you to cook. Because in my 20s, I had had a cookery school in South Africa.
And I went home that night. My kids were home and they said, this is your chance. My children were grown up at that point. They said, "Mummy, you've always wanted to cook. This is your chance to do it. Why didn't you do it now?" And that's how Cookery School began.
Daniel Hartz: Perfect. Sounds like it was the right time and place. And it just happened.
Rosalind Rathouse: Well, it did. I was still working and I had promised the parents of all the children that I was then teaching. I had a very large practice. I was teaching about 40 children a week. Well, I wouldn't abandon their children until they no longer needed me. So Cookery School started slowly with me doing lessons over the weekend, the odd evenings, and other teachers working during the week.
Daniel Hartz: Gotcha! That's nice. It was a natural progression and it started slowly and expanded into what it is today.
Rosalind Rathouse: I had no idea it would. Quite honestly.
Daniel Hartz: Oh, that's nice. It's a pleasant surprise in that case, isn't it?
Rosalind Rathouse: Yes, it's a surprise that it's grown to the extent it has. But when I started, my aim was to teach people how to cook, because I just love teaching people how to cook. And there's something really lovely about seeing people in pleasure for cooking and acquiring new skills that are so easy that they have thought were tricky. I didn't imagine I was going to be running a business. And that's meant learning loads of new things that I had never imagined I would have to tackle.
Daniel Hartz: Now I can only imagine. And why did you choose to make sustainability such a core part of your overall school, but also in all of the classes?
Rosalind Rathouse: Well, I have a daughter that's actually an environmental psychologist. And even when she was at school, she was already expressing an interest in sustainability. And in those early days really a long time ago, probably 30 years ago, 35 years ago. She used to say, "Mum, why didn't you just buy one or two organic products whenever you can? Because that way, if other people are doing the same thing, you start moving things forward." She was so right.
She was at school when she said that she was absolutely right. Because that's exactly what's happened. So from many years ago, the idea of being sustainable was put into my mind by my daughter, I have to say. And so when I opened Cookery School, a lot of those ideas were already established. In the early days ,you couldn't get much in the way of organic, anything. It was really an uphill battle finding suppliers because we would find - say we had a couple of meat suppliers and they would give us organic meat - but then supposedly organic meat, we accidentally found out that if they didn't have something that was organic that we’ve ordered, they'd throw in something non-organic.
So we then realized that we could only work with people that were purely organic, that you couldn't trust your supplier. And vegetables, one of the few people in those early days, that had vegetables that were organic was Waitrose, but a very, very small selection. And then, of course, independents. And we had a very hard and fast rule that certain ingredients had to be organic. We had no choice--if we couldn't obtain them, we just left them out.
And that happened very, very often. If we could find a substitute, we would. If we couldn't, we would just leave them out. Root vegetables were particularly hard to obtain. We could usually get carrots and onions, sometimes leeks. But turnips, parsnips, beetroots were well nigh impossible to lay hands on sometimes.
Daniel Hartz: Interesting. Must be very different now.
Rosalind Rathouse: Oh, totally different. Totally different.
Daniel Hartz: You know, I mean, even at Waitrose, they have a whole organic section with pretty much everything.
Rosalind Rathouse: Yes, exactly. We have an organic supplier. We have a non-organic supplier that can even supply organic ingredients. And of course, the supermarkets and more than that, the farmer's market.
Daniel Hartz: Of course. Yeah. Farmer's markets are great. Have you seen a lot of demand for classes on sustainable cooking? I mean, is it something that students are asking for or have been asking for or talking about frequently, just kind of sustainability overall as an idea?
Rosalind Rathouse: This will surprise you. No, we haven't. We see the people that come in to Cookery School as offering us an opportunity to allow them to taste organic ingredients to see how different they are.
We talk about the wonky veg that we have, the fact that we no longer use plastic in the kitchen. Every lesson has-- not a heavy talk because you can't be preachy. It's a very bad talk at the start of every lesson on what our sustainable practices are. Just so we’re sharing them and people have the opportunity of asking questions and learning about sustainability.
And we always say every tiny step that you take towards doing something sustainable is a step in the right direction. There's a problem with sustainability. The very word sustainability almost suggests a worthiness. And it's not like that at all. I think with people in the know, sustainability is something that you just accept and move forward with. And we do talk about sustainability of cooking school because we haven't been able to find a different word.
I'm using the word ethical more and more often these days because I think that one is having to make ethical decisions all the time about how far you go in your own world, as to what you buy, and what you do. And I think that's where the trickiness comes in with it all.
Last night we had an event at Cookery School. We ran it for women in the food industry. And it was called Sustainable Gastronomy Day yesterday. And it ended with a wonderful event at Cookery School where we used waste products. And we had an audience of people that were interested in sustainable gastronomy and waste and all the- everything associated with that.
And some wonderful women speakers who actually deal with waste, like Rubies in the Rubble, Waste-Not, Food Chain and a really good panel. And per venture, Tony Wyler, whose husband runs alone an Indian restaurant, cooking some Indian food, using those ingredients and cooked an asparagus soup because asparagus is seasonal, using every part of it of the asparagus and nothing was wasted and making a savory bread and butter pudding--introducing everyone to the idea of a savory bread and butter pudding. Because milk and bread are two of the most thrown away and wasted ingredients.
And I wanted to show them how bearing ingredients and putting anything that you have left over into a bread and butter pudding--you can come up with the most delicious savory meal. And then of course, I did a regular sweet bread and butter pudding. Interestingly, using some brioche that we had in our freezer that we left over from a class.
And again, the same topic came up about sustainability. And one or two of the panelists said they felt uncomfortable with the word because so many people, when they hear the word sustainability, tune out. There was someone in the audience that had been to a very large meeting where they'd asked him how many people they thought knew what the impact of food waste on the environment were aware of that.
70 percent of people apparently do not connect food waste with the toll it takes on the environment. And I think that says a lot, because I would say that probably it reflects the views of people that come in to Cookery School.
Daniel Hartz: Seventy percent is quite a lot. I'd like to jump into food waste in a little bit because I think it's a very important part of what you focus on and what counts as being, quote unquote, sustainable.
But before we do, I'm very interested also in what you were saying at the beginning in terms of sourcing your ingredients and what you're using. And like you were saying, it was very difficult at first to find some of these organic ingredients. And so I'm sure you had to leave a number of things out on a consistent basis at the Cookery School.
The majority of the ingredients that are sourced are locally sourced and more than 75 percent of the produce that's used in the classes is organic. So, I guess, first question is why is buying local ingredients so important?
Rosalind Rathouse: There are lots of reasons. The first is the more local ingredients are to you, the less distance they have to travel. So from a travel and transport point of view, that makes a lot of sense.
It even makes more sense if your local supplier is delivering to a lot of people in the same area so that their vehicles are really full and they're not giving off too many nasty emissions. Or if they are giving off any emission, they're giving off less than they would if they were making lots of deliveries or coming from a long way away. Buying local that has helped the local economy, but most of all, buying local usually means buying seasonal as well because they would only be growing things that are seasonal.
Daniel Hartz: Right. Absolutely. And what's the benefit of being seasonal?
Rosalind Rathouse: Well, firstly, food tastes completely different. It's lovely and fresh. And there's something really good about the seasonal changes in terms of variety and diet and also the freshness of the ingredients. They're not old. They haven't been stored. They're all produced and eaten. And that makes a great difference to the flavors of what you're producing.
Daniel Hartz: Makes a lot of sense. You can always test how it tasted when it's fresh.
Rosalind Rathouse: Oh, yes. And there's something rather almost romantic about eating really new seasonal ingredients at the moment. For example, we're using asparagus ad nauseum. The season’s about to stop at any moment now but we're using asparagus as often as we can. We were using green garlic a lot. There’s still some green garlic around. We used rhubarb--we were using actually forced pink rhubarb because it's so beautiful.
And now we’re into regular rhubarb that's going green. We'll use it in trifles, we use it for kumquats. We use it in jams and relishes. And when that finishes, we move into other fruits so we can have a huge variety of different recipes for whatever’s seasonal and cook those.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, fantastic. I think the variety is such an important part of it. You don't get accustomed to the same flavors over and over and over again regardless of the time of year.
Rosalind Rathouse: Absolutely. We we don't do it at Cookery School because we are a school. We teach people a particular cuisine. If we're teaching, say, French cooking the whole meal will be French, we're doing Spanish, whatever region we're teaching, we stick to that cuisine, rigidly.
We would like people to learn about a particular cuisine. We don't have crossovers. There are things like that are generic that everyone uses, tomato sauces, that sort of thing. They just flavor differently in different countries. But we don't do anything that is fusion.
And if you are focusing, which we do, on the flavor of ingredients and cooking those simply well, the ingredients really, really matter because you can't mask them with any vices that just override the flavor of the fresh ingredients you're using. There really is nothing to beat. The flavor and the actual taste that is unmasked of a fresh ingredient.
Daniel Hartz: That's I think, that's a good enough reason to stay local and seasonal in terms of getting ingredients, because that flavor is so important, especially when you're cooking for others.
Rosalind Rathouse: In fact, you'll be interested to know, Daniel. One point, we're doing a huge amount of chef training. We weren't teaching the chefs how to cook because chefs are good at technique. We were teaching him about food.
What goes with what? For example, in the early days, we'd have chefs coming in and they would do a stir fry and they would pop a balsamic vinegar over it. And you'd say,"No, stir fry doesn't have a balsamic vinegar over it. It comes from the east. So have something like soy sauce on it.".
So we were teaching a lot about food and seeing what went with what. And there were quite cynical. And in those days, we used to do blind tastings. We would just do something really simple, like more organic piece of chicken and a non-organic piece of chicken. So potatoes, organic and not organic, keeping it really, really simple. Bake a bit of squash, non-organic, organic again, that sort of thing. And give them blind tastings and they had no idea.
As I say, they were really cynical. Inevitably, the flavor of the organic came through. They all voted for it and they were always surprised because they didn't use organic ingredients at all in those days.
Daniel Hartz: I think that makes a lot of sense. It's great to see, but in practice it actually comes through as well.
Rosalind Rathouse: Yeah, we don't do that anymore. We just take it for granted.
Daniel Hartz: Right. And an interesting thing that I noticed in terms of organic ingredients is like on your website, it says that you have a procurement statement signed by all of your suppliers.
Rosalind Rathouse: Yes, we do.
Daniel Hartz: So what exactly is that and what does that give you? What's the what's the purpose of them? The benefit of it?
Rosalind Rathouse: We ask them to undertake certain thing. To say that they are always going to supply us with the ingredients, a big promise to supply us with, which means they can't substitute anything.
We also ask them to please make sure that when things are delivered, that they keep the carbon impact of that as low as possible, that they adhere to certain code practices with their staff. So we know we back someone ethical in terms of the way they treat their staff. So we are addressing the fact that they are treating the planet with care and people. And of course, the produce that we get from them, we use the three P's quite a lot when we ourselves when we addressing stuff we don't do it formally. We teach that in a course called Sustainable Kitchen.
We actually run a level 2 sustainable kitchen course called Sustainable Kitchen. It's an accredited course. It's a one day course where we teach people about sustainability. The beginning of it is switched off at day spent learning about terms because if you understand why you need to be sustainable as you can it's far easier to do it. You are motivated to do it. So once everyone has learned and what they need and the reasons for being sustainable, they then do a practical exercise where they have to go out and shop. And they've got to buy some sustainable ingredients and come back and cook them.
So they are learning about shopping for sustainable ingredients, looking for various accreditations like MSC for fish, the Red Tractor, Fairtrade, which are all accreditations that show that ingredients have been decently produced and that the producers have acquired a certain standard. So that, you know, the produce you are having is sustainable as it can possibly be.
MSC for fish--so you know, again, that that fish is, you know, OK to buy. I don't agree with all the principles that they have, but that they're all really good moves in the right direction because we only use organic ingredients, but it's expensive for many farmers to get more organic accreditation.
So once we are using them at Cookery School, other people can’t afford to do that, we build that into our costs. So they are farmers that are producing produce to a very high standard, but they can't afford to have, say, the Soil Association acknowledging them. They will use other accreditation. And if they know what they're looking for, they can buy produce that is sustainable, even if not organic. So whilst we require organic produce, we try to teach other people that there's other products and ingredients are worthwhile buying, even if not organic, because they are sustainable, and they local, and they’re seasonal.
Daniel Hartz: So I think the most important thing is to do your best.
Rosalind Rathouse: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah. You won't always be able to get it right 100 percent of the time. But as far as I'm seeing on the Internet, people say it's better that, you know, a million people do sustainable things, even just a little bit than no one doing anything that's sustainable.
Rosalind Rathouse: Absolutely. Because then we’re on a very slow but good route to sustainability. I mean, I feel very strongly about--and I'm boring about it. And that is it makes me rather angry that our government does nothing. And it's far better for things, I believe, to be coming from the top from government. But they're not doing it. They're not addressing it. Lots of lip service.
They started to do the odd thing. But there are so many initiatives from the bottom, that everything is starting from the bottom up, but nothing is funded. There is a lack of funds to be able to really get very good initiatives that are running the country--really moving. That could really sort us out very, very quickly. I mean, if you look at the five P on a plastic bag, that was dramatic.
We need more. We need education. Money should be thrown at it at school. Children should be learning about sustainability from the time they're five years old so it just becomes part of their DNA. And I think in some countries they do do that. We're very backward.
Daniel Hartz: Hopefully that's something that will be addressed quickly and much sooner than later.
Rosalind Rathouse: Yeah, I think so. I think one of the-- for me, one of the very hopeful things is the fact that school children are actually worried about the environment. and you know, the things that school children have been doing are very, very positive. And I feel that the next generation is going to pick up and sort out a lot of the myths that we have created.
Daniel Hartz: Yes. We're seeing a lot of it. Well, a lot of kids are are taking to the streets now and protesting and they're very concerned.
And as you said, I mean, your daughter was the one who really encouraged you to get started in the first place. I'm sure that that's happening.
Rosalind Rathouse: And they still are aware. There are so much more aware. And that's the hope. That is my hope that, you know, they rarely put pressure on everyone to do things and to get things moving again in the right direction.
Daniel Hartz: Absolutely. Going back to the food waste that you mentioned earlier, the Cookery School actually offers an entire class around food waste where students learn to make meals from food that would have otherwise been thrown away. And as you were saying, you know, 70 percent of people aren't even aware of the consequences of wasting food and throwing it away.
But to provide some context, why is avoiding food waste so important? Or another way to put it is what are the environmental consequences of wasting food?
Rosalind Rathouse: Well, the first thing is it's really such an irony that First World countries are wasting all this food and Third World countries have people starving. That's always really upsetting. But the environmental impact is-- as well as the carbon dioxide that we worry about, we used to worry a lot-- methane is now a huge problem.
And one of the big problems about food mountains is that they are responsible for giving off Greenhouse gases to methane in them that is really dangerous and they play a large role in global warming.
There was a wonderful film that Anthony Bourdain was very involved in called “Wasted” and asked people about the letters, they show them the letters, and then asked them how long it will take to disintegrate and it would be very good compost in your garden. Itt would be very quick a couple of weeks later. But if it were a food waste mountain, they asked people on the street how long it would take to disintegrate and go back to sort of nourishing the soil. And people getting three weeks, six weeks, days, twenty five years in a methane mountain. And because within the methane mountain, things just do not compost and dissolve, they actually stay as they are giving off methane because the methane stops the decomposition.
And that's terrifying. And when you see the methane mountains that exists everywhere and are increasing, you realize something drastic has to be done. And we're very careful about food waste. The peelings used in classes are made into vegetable stock.
You do a “Bottom-of-the-Fridge soup--we teach that in our waste management class. As I say, the bread and butter puddings that we did last night. So we are very, very careful with that. We freeze a lot. Anything that's left over for classes is frozen, if not eaten immediately for further staff lunches.
Even when, on our professional course, when they make things on certain days where there are leftovers, those are kept for days when they might be doing something like food hygiene or wine, of course, where they're not cooking. Then produce the food that they cooked some time earlier, which they'll have for their lunch, which of course, they love. And it's delicious, but no food waste.
Freezing is a brilliant way of saving food as is dehydrating--drying things. So any means that we have at our disposal we use to save food.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, I think that the food mountains is - it's a very surprising fact that - you know, you'd think the food would decompose and become soil. But if it's sitting there for 25 years, that's a very different picture than people think.
Rosalind Rathouse: Yeah, absolutely. Really terrifying. I find that quite terrifying actually. We are always looking at the practices that we have. And one of the things we notice is when we put food out at the end of a class, everything everyone's cooked it’s out, buffet style - at the end of a class, everyone's got to taste everything that's being cooked in a class - people help themselves to food and they take as much as they want. And we have very little waste that way, most of it is eaten.
If we have a corporate event where they've cooked for themselves--a group--and we dish out the food because we serve the food back to the restaurant-style. So we give them a plate of food, which they haven't selected themselves. That is when we find, as restaurants do, that there's food left on plates.
So the way we're addressing that now is we're giving everyone far smaller portions. But say, often we get people that really want to eat a lot. We then go round with all the food again and we provide, in seconds, for anyone that wants it. And that has cut down drastically on our food waste because people are choosing what they want to eat, not just being presented with a plate of food.
Daniel Hartz: Right. One question that I have, I think, which I'm not sure if you if you encounter this, but when supermarkets sell such inexpensive food, how would you respond to someone who says that they would rather just buy fresh food than use leftovers?
Rosalind Rathouse: Well, I would say what one would have to tell them. I think that's why it's so important to have the background to understanding sustainability because if they actually were to see a food mountain and they were to know what the waste, the havoc that waste food is causing and the damage it's causing to the environment, I think they would then be motivated to try and not waste food.
And I think you have to give them a very good reason for it. That's why I think that understanding sustainability is very important, not just giving people rules and saying you must not waste food. But they're not going to understand the implications of, say, as someone said last night, when you throw some food away, say that people throw an apple away, they just think they're holding an apple in their hand and they think “it’s just one apple, I’ll throw it away.”
But they haven't thought about what has gone into producing the apple in the first place, the water that's being used, the labor and all that sort of thing. And then they're not thinking what it's going to do to the environment when they do throw it away. But that is, in the end, perhaps going to be producing methane.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, it's true. And do you think that people can save money by being more sustainable and buy with less food?
Rosalind Rathouse: Oh,yes! I saw something that said if people at home really were careful with their waste in a week, they would be able to produce seven extra meals a week if they were clever with the way they used leftover food. That's an enormous number of meals. I don't know. That's a figure that I have just seen bandied around.
But if you think about what people throw away, for example, as I say, take something simple like bread and milk, well, you straightaway got a meal instead of throwing six slices of bread away and half a liter of milk.
You've straight away got a bread and butter pudding, throwing a bit of leftover cheese or salami or chorizo or bacon into it that's lying around in the fridge, you've created a meal. If you go through your fridge with all the leftovers and manky vegetables and things like that and you use them, you're going to have a wonderful soup. So you've already just done simple things like two meals extra a week.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, I think it makes sense. Oftentimes sustainability is really about removing or rather optimizing waste.
Rosalind Rathouse: Totally.. I mean, think if you have a roast one night, you've got a few slices of loose leftover, mince it, fry it with some onions, add a few veg to it--flinging things with vegetables is also a secret--and mix some potatoes, you've got a great sort of pie of some sort. Again, that's your third meal--very, very easy.
Just I think it brings us back to something very basic. I think a lot of people don't know how to cook, but if more people knew how to cook, I think we'd also have less waste. I think cooking should be a compulsory subject in schools.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, it's interesting you say that because it's something that I think you've been well, first of all, you teach how to cook. So clearly that's something that you think about a lot.
But you have mentioned as well that if everyone in the UK could cook even just a little bit, that and I'll quote you here, that in an article I read that many of the ills that have beset us would start to recede.
What are some of these issues that you're seeing aside from from food waste?
Rosalind Rathouse: Well, if people can't cook, they're eating takeaways a large amount of the time. People have an absolute horror of salt. There's so much salt. So what we do at the start of every lesson is the teacher measures out five grams of salt, which is the amount that actually saying is okay for every night, each day.
If you think five grams of salt, if there were, say, three people or four people in a family, it's a nice run to tablespoon of salt. You don't use that much in cooking for a family in a day. You use less if you're cooking at home. So when people are buying takeaway food, it's absolutely loaded with salt and hidden sugars.
The obesity is a problem, apart from waste, so cooking sustainably or cooking at home prevents that happening. Also, sustainability covers how people are treated and eating that sort of food is leading to a lot of illness in the society. I mean, physical illness, you know, heart attacks, strokes, all the things they keep warning us about because people can't cook.
And if they were cooking at home, they would lessen the impact of salt and sugar on their bodies. Because if you're eating locally and seasonally--it's fresh and it's healthy.
There's one thing everyone agrees on--It's about sugars, cutting sugars. And if you're eating at home, you can cut sugars.For example, if we are using apples, we use dessert apples, even to cook, at Cookery School, because when they cook, the natural sweetness in the apple, sweetens further and you need no sugar, it's natural sugars that are fine to eat.
So we would say stew apples, they'll be as sweet as anything. Don't use any sugar. And it's so easy to do. I think what we try to teach people is how accessible cooking is and how very easy it is to acquire cooking skills with very little effort.
Daniel Hartz: I think that's fantastic. Yeah, it makes sense to keep it simple, straightforward so people actually start practicing it rather than learning some very niche and overly complicated techniques that are not really helpful in terms of how you cook on a day to day basis at home.
Rosalind Rathouse: Although we do - I have to say - we do have a demand for at the moment baking because of television programs on baking. Everyone wants to learn how to bake.
So we teach people how to make things like croissant, and pain au chocolat, wonderful cakes because there's a demand for that. So we do it. But we use really beautiful products. We don't use any trans fats. We don't use things that are artificial. Everything is beautiful that we use--beautiful flour, beautiful eggs, that sort of thing, butter scraped from the producer.
So whatever we produce tastes really delicious. But if you have a small amount of something like that as a treat, it's absolutely fine. And I think you can't be too rigid about and holy about only eating healthily and sustainably. I think sustainability is important, but I think you can within that you can still have treats.
Daniel Hartz: Absolutely. Switching gears to a different type of food, you offer a class that's called the “Ultimate Meat and Poultry Class”. It's basically a five and a half hour intensive where students learn to cook nine meat dishes using different meats because there are so many available these days. And some of those meats include chicken, duck, guinea fowl, beef and lamb.
Obviously, all the meat that you use is organic and sustainably sourced. First of all I am a meat eater so I think it's a very interesting course. And I think I'm sure that you're focusing a lot on how to cook everything and use the whole animal in the case like a like a chicken. But there are some people who say that meat is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. What would you say to that?
Rosalind Rathouse: You're absolutely right. And I do have to say, I am a little conflicted about that, because a lot of people still do want to eat meat, so we run the class. I have to say as well that everything in the class except duck breast that we use and the guinea fowl are organic.
We are able to source either of those two products as organic. So we start the class by saying to everyone, "We've checked on this, we go back to source to make sure that they’re well produced and they come from a reliable source". But if we're teaching how to do these, how were unable to get organic products there--because you have to be utterly transparent--It's really important. Those are the only two things we've got in Cookery School that we have that we're unable to buy as organic.
But having said that, we have made a decision that what we were going to do was we were going to still do the meat and poultry classes - still teach everything, but everyone was going to have a smaller portion so they would learn to cook them but we’re not giving them huge portions that in the early days people would be eating of those particular products. So what we do is we make sure that we have lots of green veg.
Now, on that class, they learn to make Yorkshire pudding any way that we have lots of lovely potatoes that go with them. So they are eating some meat and tasting it and learning how to cook it. But we're trying to supplement as much as we can with vegetables. You are absolutely right, that is something that I have to say I do feel conflicted about it, but at the same time, it's the thing about taking a view.
We're not a vegetarian or vegan cookery school. We are teaching anything that people want to learn to do to encourage them to learn to cope. Having said that, we do run a vegetarian course now. Used to be a class and we've now introduced a vegetarian course. And they were telling me yesterday that the next one we have is running absolutely full which is because of the demand. It's a midweek course. It's a four-day intensive course. So we also run them once a week.
We do a vegan class. And that, too, is very popular. Interestingly enough, not with vegans, which is what I thought we would have. We are filled with vegans attending, but people that are just interested in veganism have been attending those classes.
So we do offset the meat class with doing things that are good for the environment. I think one has to do that. Can I add something else? I think because we are using mainly organic meat and I mean, the guinea fowl are free range, obviously. The impact of using organic produce and organically produced meat, which is grass fed, is far less than using - than the meat people would buy that’s just badly produced meat in a supermarket where the animals that are not grass fed or being fed on things like corn, which could be fed to people.
So they're being doubly wasteful because of what they're being fed. But I think if you're using really good meat and the other thing is a very sole piece of meat, we are highly over proteinized people have become accustomed to using far too much meat in their diet.
So even though we are teaching them a meat class and the meat comes to cook meat and poultry, if they cook it and they have a small piece and they use whatever they've cooked for a number of meals, that also makes sense.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, absolutely. And moving to focusing on the Cookery School itself, I think one of the most exciting parts about your school is that it's the only one in London, only cooking school in London, to have received three stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association. And so, first of all, congratulations!
Rosalind Rathouse: Thank you! Only three stars ever because we have been sustainable before this Sustainable Restaurant Association started. Sustainability has been at the root of what we do. So we do have inhouse little giggles about things like when we hear a restaurant saying we are not going to be using plastic and just by in 2022, we will no longer be using plastic in our restaurant. I think what we have been using for the last 10 or 12 years, it's just very much what we do. We don't even really think about it. So when we see people setting targets that we achieved before things, sustainability was considered to be cool, we know it is rather amusing.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, I can certainly see that. How it is funny from your point of view, I guess the benefit is that for the association to provide you those stars is that it's kind of like this third party association that can essentially say we've taken a look at what the Cookery School is doing and we can also independently verify that they are indeed.
So, I mean, you've been practising sustainability for a while. It's kind of always been a part of the cooking school's ethos. And you've removed plastic about ten, twelve years ago. But how many years have you had the three stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
Rosalind Rathouse: I'm trying to think when they started, since they started, and we joined them, we joined them very early on, we've had three stars. They have made us look at ourselves in a different way. That, for me, is one of the strengths of running today, as I write it, because it makes us question which we do. We are always questioning what we do and seeing how we can move forward the moment some of our recycling practices are changing, because the people that do the recycling have extended what they're able to recycle. We recycle coffee grounds with recycled oil, of course, food.
The bit of the food waste that goes off for recycling, we weigh that every day. We look at what's in it so that we can see what we can do to cut down on. So we are always looking at those practices. The things that you use in the kitchen, for example, pastry bags were plastic. Well, you can use washable ones, but that's not really practical in the school. So we use ones that will degrade. They will actually just degrade. They're made from probably means likewise plastic gloves, vinyl gloves.
When you're dishing up new in the food environment, you use them. We've stopped using those. We found really good ones we used for a few years ago, no one liked them. They went back to vinyl for a bit and then we bought back these gloves and just insisted that we get used to them and we are used to them. And also when you are finished with them, they just degrade.
And I think, you know, it would be best if you didn't have to use them. Unfortunately, we do in certain circumstances, no longer using vinyl or plastic gloves, but gloves that are degradable. And I think those sort of things, we keep on saying, "oh, why are we doing this or that?" And someone will question it and we'll find an alternative practice or an alternative product that we can use.
Daniel Hartz: Do you think it's possible for other cooking schools and restaurants to get to your level of sustainability?
Rosalind Rathouse: I definitely do. I think that you can throw a switch and become sustainable overnight. What we've done, we've extended our practices over a number of years. We started with a limited number of things that we did, decided to do, like using organic produce, giving up plastics, using fish that was unsustainable. We stopped using tuna and skate and endangered species long before any of us were saying you shouldn't be using them.
I mean, if you look at restaurant menus now, they've got things on them like hake, pollock. Fifteen, sixteen years ago, we were using turbot and a lot of turbot, a lot of sea bass - real, which I would have caught “luxury” halibut, luxury fishes then. But you just don't get them anymore and they're all threatened. Even salmon, fresh salmon, this time of the year you couldn't wait for this time of the year to get the new season salmon that came in. We won't use any farmed salmon, there's no argument at all for using salmon that is farmed, organic or otherwise. It's just that we shouldn't be eating it. So we don't use that.
We use pollock, we use mackerel, lots of mussels, we only use sustainable fish that's local and line-caught. And I think that a lot of restaurants are following suit. I think that there are
strides in certain areas, but too many people still are not doing it. And I think they feel that to make a change to sustainability is a huge step. And I wish that someone could say to them, it's not once you decide you're going to go along that road, you move along. It's slowly making changes as and when. And each little change you make has a huge impact, because if a lot of people are doing that, the collective impact is really grand.
Daniel Hartz: Absolutely and that's what we were saying earlier. And what if we look at people at home? I know that many people probably do want to try to reduce their carbon footprint. They do want to try reducing their plastics use. But, you know, it's not always obvious how to be sustainable in the kitchen. What are one or two changes people listening to this podcast can do or make to have an environmentally friendly kitchen?
Rosalind Rathouse: Firstly, I would say use any ingredients you have in your fridge, the full plan, what you want to buy at the supermarket so you don't just over fill your fridge and try and shop, say once a week or twice a week and use everything up before you restock so that you have a less empty fridge before you stuck up again. That way you will be using everything up.
And as I said, probably at the end of the week, you've got milk-- use your milk up. Actually, a very easy way of using milk is making ricotta cheese. Just put your milk into a saucepan, warm it, bring it up to just below the boil, and you add a little bit of lemon juice or scrap of vinegar to it and it just separates out, you strain it and you got a lovely homemade ricotta cheese in a flash to use.
And the whey that comes out of it is great to use if you're a serious cook in breads or pancakes. So again, you're not wasting even that bit of milk at the top of your fridge.
Daniel Hartz: Oh wow, I'm going to try that. That sounds amazing.
Rosalind Rathouse: Yeah, it's fun. And it's a trend to make and it tastes very different. And if you wanted to make paneer, which is an Indian sort of cheese, you take that, look it's exactly the same with ricotta, and you press it to push it, put it into some up to some paper and you put a weight on top of it so that it becomes a solid piece. And that's your paneer.
So know there are all sorts of things you could do that are simple if you've just been shown how to do them. But I would say shopping carefully, using everything up, and just planning ahead a little.
Also, the big impact would be if they start using environmentally products in the house for cleaning. We use some carbon neutral products in the house. In fact, they're made by somewhat called “Delphis Eco”. We've been using them for years. There weren't any commercial products. They have no scents, they have no phosphates in them, no bleaches. So when they go into the water and there's effluent and they run out, they're not affecting wildlife or river life or anything like that, or the sea of life.
And they are just totally carbon neutral and you can buy them. And the supermarkets do keep products like that. So instead of using household cleaners that are really abrasive, full of phosphates, full of chlorine, just have a look around and start using gentler things in the house.
Vinegar is great for cleaning. You know, all sorts of alternatives you can use that are gentle and that is a step to being sustainable without too much effort. So it's all those tiny little things that add up--turning off lights when you leave the room if you can, using good energy as your electricity supplier. There are lots of good energy suppliers to find one of those. So that again, you're using rather than coal or gas made energy or even nuclear energy, which is sustainable. You are using wind driven energy. I think it depends, you know, how far you want to go, but each tiny thing you do is a help.
Daniel Hartz: Absolutely. You know, I think that's very well said and as I was saying at the beginning, even just making small steps at the beginning, if everyone did just a tiny bit, it would certainly have a big knock on effect.
Rosalind Rathouse: You know, we were saying-- I agree with you completely, Daniel. We were saying last night at the Gas Spur Sustainable Astronomy event that when I first came to live in England, I think I must tell you, I am 75 years old. So I have seen, I come from a time when there was no plastic, there was no tin foil because there was no other alternative.
That's just how you lived. Even when I came to live in London in the 60s. That's how people were eating. Because you ate what was produced at the time. They didn't fly in food from all around the world. We ate like that. Everyone had to cook, even if it was something like a tin of Bully Beef--that was sort of instant food. You'd have to put it into a frying pan and heat, you know, and heat it. There was no such things as instant meals.
It's in my lifetime that I've seen these changes that are really enormous. And we were saying last night, I was saying that I remember a time when the world wasn't this way. But if you could roll back time for 50 years, it's not a lot of time. But if you could roll it back, there's a lot.
And look at what we used to do. Those practices and put them into press now, which is what a lot of people are trying to do, we would be able to reverse a lot of things.
But when I first came to live in England, the government used to have public information programmes on all sorts of different issues. And they would repeatedly show on your television so that you were actually learning about things. If they even institute simple things like VAT now. Talking about waste, informing people on what our behaviour is doing to the environment, I think you could see - we would see a substantial change in people trying to help - but they don't have the information or the knowledge and there's no one really giving it to them. And particularly if you're not someone that is into sustainability yourself, where'd you learn about it?
Daniel Hartz: That's a very good point. I think education is probably the first and foremost aspect in making any changes. Because if people if people are aware, then there is no way that they'll want to change or they'll even know how to change or what to change for that matter.
Rosalind Rathouse: Daniel, I couldn't agree with you more. I think that that is the first step. And lots of people are trying to do that. There are loads of people doing loads of things around the country. There isn't one real big coordinating body, all that is taking responsibility.
Or government that is saying, “Hold on, stop, we can do something about this.” And I think young people are demanding that of them.
Daniel Hartz: And speaking of education, do you have any books about sustainable cooking or environmentally friendly food choices that you can recommend for anyone who's interested in learning more about it?
Rosalind Rathouse: Now, that's a really interesting question, because I've never been asked that before and I'm just having a little think about it. And I can't. I'm sure there must be. I think that there probably are, but I think they give a lot of theory probably.
I would say most people that use, that I do know, people that have written about them and I've suggested recipes and things that you can follow. But I think they're very limited. I think that they come at it from the wrong angle. I think you've got to come at it much more practically. I think it's got to be doing rather than saying or writing. I think you need action.
I understand what you're asking. You're saying if someone wants to understand sustainability, how do they go about doing it? I think the best way of doing it is actually getting onto the Web. The website would have loads of information. I think it's a far better medium for me than books for people that really - where the public wants to learn and I'd say they'd be far better advised.
There are piles of people doing wonderful, sustainable things. And most of them are writing about them online. And there's so much out there that you can do that. I think that would be my advice. Rather start by looking at what the web has to offer and you will find a few agencies that you can then follow that many people offer classes, lectures, and they're wonderful things that are happening. And I think that's the better way forward personally than reading a book it.
Daniel Hartz: I think that's fair enough. There is, I mean, the Internet--it has everything now. There's so many resources there. And where can people find out more about what you're doing, learn more about your thought process, and ultimately sign up for a cooking class?
Rosalind Rathouse: And we try to be as comprehensive as we can on our own website. And people do come to us mainly through the Internet. I'd say the majority of our bookings are word of mouth or what they read about us on the Internet or occasionally in the media. And if anyone goes to the Cookery School websites, it’s just you know, we are Cookery School at the 14th Street. They will find us on the Web and go to our site and we try to provide as much information as we can.
Daniel Hartz: And so if people want to book a class, they should just go to Cookery School dot CO dot UK, and they'll be able to find all the classes there.
Rosalind Rathouse: Yes. And the site is very user friendly--everything is there. We love talking to people as well. So if someone wants to know anything about the class, just call us or email us and we'll be in touch because we feel it's really important. We're the only cookery school that publishes everything that is done in every class. We feel when someone comes in, they need to know exactly what is going to be learnt. And we don't just give everyone one or two things to do. We teach very differently. If we are teaching something, we'll probably do, depends on the class. But a half a dozen different dishes and everyone in some classes people will make a few of them. Other times they'll be shared cooking because that way what happens is you learn a technique repeatedly and in a reinforced way. If different people are doing the same technique or learning the same skill but spreading it so they can all see permutations of the same technique being done at the same time they would go home and you have a better idea than just doing one or two little things yourself.
Daniel Hartz: Great. Well, it sounds like a very approachable and very accessible learning style or a teaching style, I should say. And for anyone who's interested in giving it a try. I think there is no reason to not try it.
Rosalind Rathouse: Daniel, I think I should add, because I haven't really spoken, I'll just quickly tell you about our teaching style. Because of my background in teaching, we believe one of the most important ways of learning is by making mistakes. So if someone makes a mistake in the class or if one of our students, it can happen, we pounce on it and we look to see why that error has been made and we repeat it so that everyone can see how you correc it because it's all very well doing something perfectly as a class, going home and making a mistake and not knowing what to do. But if you've been fortunate enough to see something go wrong in the class, you won’t panic, you'll know what to do and you'll correct it.
So one of the very important teaching styles that we have is using errors--using mistakes are one of the best ways of learning. Classes are not daunting. We're very relaxed. They are very structured. But you can't learn if you're feeling anxious. You've got to be relaxed. They've got to be fun. And you've got to be able to ask questions. And most importantly, you've got to do things. You learn by doing far more than by just remembering or reading.
Daniel Hartz: Yeah, I think that makes all the difference. And I especially as we are saying, knowledge and education is such an important component in making and affecting change in terms of sustainability. So the fact that it is approachable, I think that's perfect.
Rosalind Rathouse: Yes. Thank you.
Daniel Hartz: Yes, so Rosalind, thank you so much for your time. This has been enlightening and very interesting.
And I think there is no reason for anyone, like we were just saying, to not give the Cookery School a little Portland Street a try and see how sustainable cooking can be done and how easy it is to start cooking at home.
I really appreciate your time today. And perhaps, I'll see one of your classes in the very near future.
Rosalind Rathouse: I would love that. Daniel, thank you so much for the opportunity to talk about sustainability, to talk about cookery school. And we would welcome anyone that would love to join us. We do love teaching.
Thank you very much for listening to this episode!
If you’d like to learn more about Rosalind and The Cookery School at Little Portland Street, visit their website at cookeryschool.co.uk, or like their Facebook page, @CookerySchoolLondon.
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