Over the coming weeks before Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2018 commences we are sharing short interviews with some of the youth delegates and other Scottish food leaders attending the biggest global gathering of food communities in the world!
Next up is chef Joaquin Cano Reina (Kino), who has just finished his last year of professional cookery at Edinburgh college and started working at Cafe St Honore, a long-term supporter of Slow Food and SFYN. Kino also volunteers with Food-Sharing Edinburgh, teaching sustainable cooking workshops across the city.
What’s your happiest food memory?
Not an easy answer. But if I had to choose one, I remember, as a child, especially during spring and autumn, when the Mediterranean weather is mild enough to go outdoors, we used to spend almost every Sunday in the countryside with my mum’s family. My grandparents would cook paella rice (with veggies and some chicken) over an open fire. They would forage for wild rosemary and thyme on the spot and add it to the pan, for flavour.
I honestly remember the aromas in the air while I was playing around, as bucolic as it may sound, and becoming really hungry. One of the most beautiful memories of those days is that just before the meal was ready, my grandma, Ines, used to give me, my sister and my cousins, a halved tomato each with a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil, to soothe our hunger and help us wait 🙂
What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
I love eating, which led me to cooking. I realized I loved the process of preparing my meals as much as eating them. I also enjoyed the social aspect of it. My father’s parents were closely related to cooking, as my mom’s parents were in the countryside. That kept me aware of the connection between our environment and our food from an early age. However, the experience that shocked me and pulled me towards wanting to get more actively involved in trying to make a change was a job I had at a big restaurant part of a home furnishing multinational company, which original purpose, I learned later, was to attract more customers to the main store, by offering inexpensive meals.
My main task was that of receiving, storing and controlling the hygiene and safety of all the food goods we received. However, due to company policies, in order to stay cost competitive, we were systematically sent bigger amounts of certain items that we were able to sell. That caused, every time, a significant amount of food waste which life went from truck through a store, to bin having passed its best before date (in good condition).
When the management had suggested some solutions, they refused as the process of dealing with this “waste” would mean extra work, thus extra money. As opposed to wasting it, which seemed to be part of the cost plan from the beginning. One of the values this company brags about is SUSTAINABILITY. I came to understand that something was wrong. After a couple of years of throwing away food that could have otherwise being consumed, I left. And felt determined to do what I could to improve that situation.
How are you helping to or hoping to build a better food system?
As a volunteer, I have delivered three sustainable cooking workshops for Food Sharing Edinburgh, to University of Edinburgh students, I collect and redistribute leftover food from businesses in Edinburgh, once a week, to save waste and raise awareness about it, and I have been part of the facilitation team of a Kitchen Table Talk (towards the Good Food Nation Bill). I hope to keep collaborating with Food Sharing Edinburgh for as long as I am in this city. I also hope to get more involved with Slow Food in their events and actions.
As a chef, I like to work in a kitchen environment where the principles of a sustainable food system are applied on a daily basis. But I’m also really keen on the raising awareness/campaigning part of it. I think education is key, as one of the first steps to gain the support of more people to find solutions, is to let them know about the problem.
What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
It is difficult to pick one. But I would say, food waste. As it means, the waste of time, energy and resources for “nothing”. The extent of this problem reaches every single step of the food chain, from production to consumption.
How can we best stimulate young adults curiosity about food and agriculture and encourage their participation in building healthier food systems?
As mentioned above, education is an important channel of influence, especially for young people. They need to know how relevant this issue is to our daily lives and the environment in which all types of life take place. Again, being a cook myself, I find cooking a useful tool to draw the attention of people towards food and everything related to it. When you cook, all your senses are engaged. It makes you feel, experience, experiment. Food can be colourful and tasty. And preparing it can be fun and gives you a sense of freedom, independence. Besides, we all need to eat, everyday. In the sustainable cooking workshops that I have taught so far, we cooked with the students, shared the meal, and had a discussion on food waste facts, and the importance of being sustainable in the kitchen. Most of the attendants were shocked by some of the facts and figures we gave them.
Who are your food heroes?
Vandana Shiva Masanobu Fukuoka Pierre Rabhi
Which of this year’s Terra Madre themes most relates to your work and why?
I think that the five of them can somewhat relate to the work in a kitchen. As an activist, at the moment, I am particularly interested in learning more about seeds, GMO vs cultural exchange. I think that by keeping and protecting seeds that have been passed down for hundreds or thousands of years, we are protecting one of the most important pieces of heritage the human species has, being a mixture of both natural and cultural. Seeds contain all the information necessary to produce life.
If you could travel to one country in the world to experience their food culture where would it be?
I would like to travel to a lot of different places to experience their food culture, but my answer, today, would be India. Being a massive sub-continent, it must be full of diversity.
You might not know this but…
Of all the food that I have tried in my thirty years of life, I am only aware of one food which taste and texture I do not like at all. It is the cherimoya or “custard apple” (Annona cherimola). A tropical fruit, that also grows in some parts of the Mediterranean. People love it in my hometown, and I feel embarrassed to say that I hate it. Even though I still try sometimes to give it a chance, there’s no way. It makes me go yuck! Poor cherimoya. I wish I liked it.