Food waste has been making the headlines in recent times, and providing an honest and positive look at the issue, through lived experience, is where Shane Jordan comes clean and tells it as it is.
The Bristol-native is the author of the Food Waste Philosophy, a book which discloses the truth behind food, and how food affects our lives. In the Food Waste Philosophy, the vegetarian chef and education practitioner documents his relationship with food from childhood to present day, discussing his thoughts on food waste, education, sustainability and environmental issues.
A refreshing book to read for people of all generations, Food Waste Philosophy shares with readers knowledge about food waste and the issues we currently face in modern times with a strain on the planet’s resources. The book makes readers aware that they have choices when it comes to not just their own health and wellbeing, but the health of this planet, and the part they play in both.
Every being on this reality has a connection to nature as well as a shared responsibility for the environment and maintaining its resources, and Food Waste Philosophy goes some way to making people aware of this through food.
In that, the book is neither preachy nor “points the finger” nor tells people what they are doing is wrong. Instead it seeks to inform and educate, while providing readers with practical steps including simple vegetarian recipes made using leftover vegetables, such as the inventive and imaginative Banana Skin Curry, Crispy Herb Potato Skins and Curried Pancakes.
Reading Food Waste Philosophy, Shane Jordan makes clear his simple approach to food and food waste. He is very much about back-to-basics, and shuns the use of “fancy equipment” when cooking, knowing that good, wholesome meals can be made without it. This makes Shane Jordan’s book and his methods of cooking so accessible to many people, regardless of age or income, and proves that healthy food can be made inexpensively too.
Through his writing style and in his work as an education practitioner and newly crowned Love Food Hate Waste ambassador for the South West of England, Shane Jordan adopts a gentle yet nurturing approach to informing people about the issues. “I’m not preachy which I’m very aware of because some people are. They are too passionate almost about a subject,” he says. “They come across as too aggressive sometimes and it puts people off and makes them defensive. So when you talk to people and you give them the information and you make it easy for them, they like that approach. This is what I’ve found.”
“Working with people and getting them to be more creative, I think they like my approach because it’s quite open,” Shane Jordan adds. “I’m not trying to fill their head with my information and have an ideology that you have to do this, you have to do that. I want to talk to them and I want to find out more about them, and make them feel comfortable. Asking them: ‘So do you recycle?’ They don’t. ‘Why don’t you?’ And then talk to them about actually I didn’t use to recycle too but how can I make it easier for you to recycle, easier for you to use your caddy waste bin. It’s just a nice dialogue that’s quite informal and I’m not being too preachy.”
Shane Jordan certainly speaks from the heart, communicating his inner truth, be it via his book or having a conversation with him. What’s particularly endearing about Shane Jordan is his sincerity and compassion, as well as his keep it real approach. In Food Waste Philosophy he admits that he never used to recycle nor have much of an interest in the environment. For many people throughout the world, it is often the case before becoming conscious and adopting a sustainable lifestyle.
“The thing is with Food Waste Philosophy, I want it to be open and I wanted to talk about ‘ok I’ve burnt things, I’ve made mistakes’. I’m not putting myself on this hierarchy where I know it all and you need to let me guide you,” Shane Jordan says. “I’m saying ‘listen I’ve done this, I’ve done that’ and I’m just being as open as possible, and I think that’s the key thing. I want to talk about things that I haven’t done well and things that I’ve learned and I just want show people, you have options and whatever options you take that’s fine. But I’m not going to tell you what option to take.”
The chef also admits that cooking “was kind of like a minor activity”. “I didn’t take it too seriously at the beginning,” he adds. “I didn’t take it seriously until someone said ‘Hey, this is really good. Maybe you should take this seriously’.” Cooking happened very organically for the Bristol-born chef. What started off as “just something that was fun to do” has now evolved into a career focused around food and education.
Shane Jordan began cooking seriously when he was asked to prepare vegetarian cuisine for the Harbourside Market in Bristol. The success of his cooking prompted him to cook professionally in cafés, and for events and banquets throughout the South West of England, creating vegetarian menus. When he’s not in kitchens, he spends his time educating on healthy eating, food waste, recycling and the environment.
His particular interest in food waste started when he volunteered at FoodCycle, an organisation whose aim is to “unite and nourish communities using surplus food”. The charity runs projects across the UK, serving meals for people in need of a hot meal and friendship. “Volunteering for FoodCycle was the turning point for me, because I actually had a chance to see all the food that would have been thrown away,” Shane Jordan says. “The fact that it had been made into a community meal and the vibes were so positive, it was just amazing to see that and to be a part of that. Once I learned that this is what you can do with food that is being thrown away, the creativity came in and I started to embrace it more.”
Shane Jordan’s experience at FoodCycle planted a seed and it inspired him to begin creating imaginative meals from surplus food, in particular, vegetable and fruit skins. A former meat-eater, Shane Jordan decided to become vegetarian as a health-based choice. Although he no longer eats meat, today he emphasises the importance of a nose-to-tail approach to cooking with meat. “I’ve spoken to a lot of butchers and found that many people pick and choose what parts they want from the animal, but they don’t use the offcuts, which are the areas of the animal that people don’t find as appealing,” he says. “I believe that if you are going to eat the animal, eat all parts of the animal that are edible because you are wasting so much otherwise.”
“I’m always pro using everything as much as possible,” Shane Jordan adds. “I don’t throw things away. Even though I don’t eat meat, I still advocate that the whole animal be used.
“In history, whether they are the Native Indians, they use every single part of the animal – the skin – everything had a use. So if you are going to have it, use as much of the animal as possible. Don’t be put off by a certain cut because it might look strange, because once you fry that, its not going to look that way – and that’s something I’m always advocating.”
In Food Waste Philosophy, Shane Jordan talks candidly about his time as a vegan. Having spent time working on vegan stalls, he became aware of just how much food prejudice existed within the vegan circles that he found himself surrounded by, both on a professional and social level. “When I was doing the vegan stalls, there was so much conversation, he says. “People would people watch. They would see people eating a sausage roll and they would have so much opinion on that person and so much judgment.”
“The strange thing is, there’s a difference between people who eat vegan and don’t adhere to a vegan lifestyle,” he explains. “Veganism the lifestyle is very difficult because the clothes and everything that you do, revolves around that. I was eating vegan but then people were then looking at my clothes and then saying: ‘Are you wearing wool? And are you wearing leather? And what bank do you bank with? Because they fund the arms trade and if you go to that university, that university do laboratory experiments. And it got to the point where you’re vegan into my life – trying to find everything vegan – and who lives that way? It was too much.”
The level of rigidity that Shane Jordan encountered within the vegan community came to a head when he decided to make the switch from vegan to vegetarian. “That was challenging because I had so much heat on me for being open for making food that’s vegan and vegetarian and not just sticking to the vegan side,” he recalls. “At the beginning I took a lot of slack for doing that, so that was difficult. Veganism is sometimes, not always, very militant and people spoil it, and I don’t like that side of it.”
Fortunately Shane Jordan has not had to deal with anything quite as rigid nor as negative in his experience of food waste. The most challenging thing he says he has encountered as a food waste advocate is when he talks to somebody and they really do not care about the issue. In such cases, his solution is to find a different approach. “You have to find another angle, you have to find lots of angles which I like because it makes me research the subject even more,” Shane Jordan says. “That’s interesting to do that because there are some people who have a habit and they want to throw food in a general waste bin and they don’t care about that. It’s just about making it apply to them in their lives, so making them see it from another angle.”
While Shane Jordan has developed a career in the food industry, as a chef he is not interested in having his own restaurant or café. Similarly while he has specialised in using food waste to create vegetarian menus, he’s not an advocate of zero waste restaurants. He is more of the take that a zero waste approach should be integrated into every restaurant, whether it’s mainstream or independent.
“I like the principle of zero waste restaurants and the philosophy,” Shane Jordan says. “For me, it depends on their attitude. Are they doing it because that’s how they feel they are doing it, as an example? Every single restaurant can do that. It depends on what their agenda is. But I think it’s great that they are taking that initiative to do that – the more conscious you are the better really.”
One thing Shane Jordan would like to see more of is celebrity chefs using their influence in positive ways. While TV programmes have in turn done their part to “glamourise” cooking, he says he would like for such programmes to show the real side of cooking, and include food waste.
Shane Jordan says: “People are doing small bits, but I wish that someone would do something that would change cooking. No chef has a food waste caddy bin and puts their wasted food in a caddy bin and says: ‘ok, I’m supporting my council and I’m recycling my food waste’. No chef does that – it cuts away from the food and they don’t show you what to do with the ingredients. And they don’t show the chefs washing up or doing any of the things that are real when it comes to cooking, and I wish they did do that.”
Cooking and creativity are obvious innate skills of Shane Jordan’s, but it is his passion for knowledge and education that is a driving force. He has become well known among campaigning groups and local government. He is an ambassador for food waste as part of WRAP (Waste Resource Action Programme) and their campaign Love Food Hate Waste, a government-funded campaign to reduce food waste across the UK.
Shane Jordan has also attended meetings with Bristol East MP and former Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Kerry McCarthy on food waste issues in Westminster. In addition, he works in schools and childcare settings, spreading the green message in fun and interesting ways.
It appears that setting up a charity is destined for the food waste champion. “I’d like to set up a charity with someone else that encourages people to cook and do environmental work,” he explains. “Kind of like what other organisations do but I have another angle that I’d like to do. I’d like to work with people whether its young people, families, and include cooking as well as environmental activities in what they do. I’d love to do something around that.”
Food Waste Philosophy by Shane Jordan is available to buy online from Amazon.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, wellbeing, and entertainments. Rosa also works as a psychic, counsellor, intuitive reader and spiritual life coach helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com