Following the organic trade mission of the Ministry of LNV to Wallonia and Luxembourg on 8-11 May 2022, the question arose: 100% Organic cooking for a chef, how obvious is that? this question was put to Marc Pâquet, the chef of the Dutch ambassador? After all, as part of the trade mission, Marc provided a fully organic drink with snacks for the delegation of Dutch entrepreneurs. It resulted in the interview below with Marc on Agrobericht Buitenland.
Photo source: Dutch embassy in Belgium
Have you ever cooked organically before?
Marc: “Fortunately, I did not have to wait for this opportunity to gain experience with organic cooking. After all, in 2022 you will find organic ingredients everywhere, so it is quite easy to replace conventional products with organic ones if you are committed to sustainability and health.”
What do you think is the general attitude of chefs towards organic ingredients? Do you think this could develop into an interesting niche market in the future?
“To answer this question, one has to distinguish between chefs working in the commercial sector of hotels and restaurants on the one hand and those who work for diplomatic institutions. I know from my own experience that chefs in the commercial sector have to deal with a very strict budget, while diplomatic institutions are expected to keep an eye on the budget with due care, because catering at diplomatic institutions is also the calling card of the ambassador and his country. but many organic products have become so. All in all, this gives a chef at a diplomatic institution more freedom to compose a menu than his colleagues in the commercial sector. It should be noted that the catering at diplomatic institutions has stripped of luxury ingredients in recent years and has therefore become much more sober, but also more modern, creative ever and more fun!”
Do you, as a chef, think that knowing that people eat organic has a positive impact on how people appreciate food?
“Certainly, but in a conscious way. People associate biologically with healthy and with how their grandparents ate, so that biologically is also surrounded with some nostalgia, so that perhaps a psychological effect also plays a role. However, they sometimes ignore the fact that a lot of organic food from the supermarket comes from industrial organic farming, which does little justice to this nostalgic aspect, so one should actually prefer to source organic ingredients from the short chain.”
As a chef, you have well-developed taste buds. Can you taste the difference between conventional and organic ingredients?
“With fresh, unprepared products such as vegetables, milk, meat, I do taste that difference. Once cooked or prepared, no more, with the exception of eggs, where this difference is very blatant. But in addition to the taste difference, there is also a difference in job satisfaction. For example, it is very pleasant for a cook to work with organic eggs for a sauce or cream (among other things because of the color difference in egg yellow).”
Was it a positive experience for you to cook 100% organically for the organic trade mission?
“That goes without saying! It all started with the purchase of organic ingredients. Although I often buy organic ingredients, in May it was the first time that I only had organic products in my shopping cart. That attracted the positive attention of the other customers in the store!I also knew that the ambassador’s guests would appreciate my extra efforts to prepare purely organically and that gave me extra work satisfaction.It is also always a pleasure to be able to work with quality products.But technically spoken there was no difference.”
What about your suppliers: did you have to turn to other suppliers or did your usual suppliers have all the necessary ingredients?
“Before answering this question, one must realize that there is a difference in product range between supermarkets on the one hand and specialized organic stores on the other. In the first category, there is nowadays an organic alternative for almost all products, but these products come from industrial organic farming Compared to 3 years ago, i.e. before the sanitary crisis COVID-19, the offer in the supermarkets has expanded considerably. The specialized organic stores, on the other hand, have a more limited, better quality, but higher Prices.”
“For the reception of the organic trade mission, I put together a menu in my usual way. Then I went looking for the necessary organic ingredients. About 90% of them I found in the supermarkets and for the other 10% I or my I changed the menu or bought myself from specialized organic stores. For example, I couldn’t find organic bread. I then started making it myself based on organic flour, which I could find.”
“Given the audience at this reception, I put my professional pride into cooking 100% organically. So the salt and pepper used were also organic!”
Do you think you will cook organically more often in the future, also with a view to financially? Do you have any tips to avoid the additional costs of organic food?
“As said before, chefs in the commercial sector have to work with too limited a budget to also be able to pay the additional costs of organic food. However, as an ambassador chef, I do have the opportunity to work with organic ingredients. I always use organic eggs, butter and vegetables, and if I also use the organic variant of other products, I specifically mention this in my menu, for example “based on organic quark” to emphasize the health and quality aspect. However, one has to be somewhat careful with the mention to maintain the added value of the mention.”
“As for tips: manage your waste flow well! For example, the organic ingredients are often available in smaller portions, so you have less waste. That way you avoid waste and therefore costs.”
Can you tell us more about the additional costs of organic ingredients? For example, which organic products are more expensive or cheaper than their conventional variety?
“In general, it can be said that organic products are 30% more expensive. However, sometimes they are cheaper, because they are sold in smaller portions, so there is no waste. This applies, for example, to fresh herbs and vegetables such as green peas. But it is true that the price per kilo is higher than for conventional products.”
Do you have any other comments about cooking with organic ingredients?
“If one really wants to convince consumers of the importance of organic cooking, then one will have to invest in a certain form of food literacy among consumers. The success of organic food depends on the consumer’s knowledge of good and healthy food and sustainability. .”
Source: Agro-messages Abroad