Follow the Green Star: Michelin’s new accolade points the way for sustainable food and drink

February 24, 2021

The hospitality industry has had little to smile about in the past year. Aside from the heady days of ‘eat out to help out’ (which seem like a lifetime ago), the last twelve months have been a procession of worsening news: closures, false dawns and empty tables. However, the light at the end of the tunnel does seem to be getting closer. To steal an analogy from Professor Van Tam (he’s used so many I’m sure he’ll forgive me for borrowing one), the train is gathering pace as it approaches the station and thought now turns to the future of the food and drink industry. For those who have battled through to the other side, the introduction of Michelin’s green star may be the waypoint to help them navigate the post-pandemic landscape. 

 

Ethical and environmental standards

A little under a month ago, the finest restaurants in the UK and Ireland collectively held their breath as the pinnacle of gastronomic criticism announced which establishments had won, lost and retained their highly coveted stars.  Although there is an increasingly noisy opposition to the merits of Michelin - and in this year of all years their sense of greater perspective may have been called in to question - it is still seen as the holy grail by many; a springboard from which to reach dizzying gastronomic heights and secure the future of eating establishments, which can of course be no bad thing. This year, in keeping with the direction of consumer habits, Michelin introduced a ‘Green Star,’ awarded to restaurants championing progressive ethical and environmental standards.

Across the UK and Ireland twenty-three restaurants were bestowed with this new honour. Justifications included sustainable foraging, innovative food waste solutions and contributing to local, national or global charity and education projects. 

Once we emerge from the pandemic and live in what we all hope will be a ‘new normal’ that is as close to the ‘normal normal’ as possible, the importance of a greener future will surely once again be front and centre of the national and indeed international agenda. The irrepressible drive towards sustainability from evermore environmentally savvy consumers that is prevalent across all sectors (a scroll through previous blog posts from my colleagues on this very site brings the reality of that point to life) will once again gather momentum. It is then that those at the top of their respective fields must act as the flagships in promoting its importance. 

That is certainly the view of Tommy Banks, head chef of The Black Swan in Yorkshire and winner of the environmental accolade, who noted in a recent interview with The Independent (Barrie, 18/02/21): "Coming out of this, climate change must be the big talking point – we’ve got to focus on the bigger picture … I think it’s really important Michelin is recognising the environmental issues restaurants face. It’s up to those at the top to set a standard. I hope in five years’ time, the bar is raised, and there won’t be a need for green stars, because we’ve all got to be focusing on this.” 

 

Sustainable business models

The ambition must, of course, be for sustainability to become second nature to any business, restaurant or indeed individual. However, whilst it remains just an ambition, putting those that are championing these efforts on a pedestal is not only welcome, but necessary. Across all fields, those leading the charge to what we hope will be a shiny new green world must be celebrated and so too is this the case within the world of food and drink.

The hope now is that once the initial mass-excitement at the possibility of sitting across from friends in a restaurant has started to subside, and the scrutiny from consumers around the environmental commitments of where and what they eat returns, those in the hospitality industry who have weathered this biblical storm will have set their course for what the new green star represents.

 

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