Food will be a key theme of next month’s Sustainability Week, being hosted at Planet Mark-certified The Hospital Club. Duncan Cruickshanks, head chef at the London private members’ club, talks sustainability with Planet First’s Louise Bateman.

Duncan Cruickshanks, chef, The Hospital Club

Duncan Cruickshanks, head chef at The Hospital Club, holds regular supper clubs at the uber-trendy London private members club, at the start of which he tells his diners the story behind each item of food on the menu – where it’s originated from and how it’s ended up on their dish.

“When I look at a menu I like to know what season it is. For me it’s all about the product. It’s about locally sourced, seasonal produce and it’s about providence,” says the Wigan-born chef, who has turned a childhood passion into a successful career.

Food made good

In a few weeks time, the story Duncan will be telling at his supper club will be one he’ll especially savour because its organic content will form the entrée to The Hospital Club’s third annual Sustainability Week, which kicks off on November 14th.

Sustainable food will be one of five themes running through the seven-day event, which will also cover climate change, smart cities, green entrepreneurs and communications and will include speakers such as Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, James Cameron, co-founder of Climate Change Capital, Greg Barker, former Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mark Linehan managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), and actress Greta Scacchi.

Duncan will be stepping out of the kitchen himself during Sustainability Week to take part in a panel discussion entitled ‘Why Does Food Taste Better When It’s Made Good?’. Speaking alongside him will be Ben Tish, chef director of charcuterie and brasserie Salt Yard Group, and the SRA’s Mark Linehan, who has just launched the new sustainable food movement, Food Made Good.

“Recent research published by Abertay University reveals that the satisfaction that comes from eating ethically produced food has a measurable impact on our enjoyment of that food. But diners, more than 90 per cent of whom say their choice of restaurant is influenced by sustainability issues, will only enjoy an enhanced dining experience if restaurants are doing good things and tell their customers about them,” says Linehan.

That’s music to the ears of Duncan who has been building a connection between the food he sources, his restaurant and The Hospital Club members since taking over as chef five years ago.

“When I took over, the restaurant had dishes from all different countries all on one menu and no identity. The first thing I did was make it seasonal. Now the menu changes nine times a year and nothing on it isn’t seasonal,” he says.

Creating anything out of nothing

Duncan, says his flair and passion for sustainability and food is largely down to his mum. “She had the ability to create anything out of nothing — and that goes back to sustainability; turning everything you have into something. We never wasted food, we couldn’t afford to waste food. That was drilled into me from an early age.”

The “leave nothing to waste” philosophy was cemented further in Duncan’s early career as a chef, working at Paul Heathcote’s former two Michelin-starred Longbridge restaurant in Preston. “We only used the best of the products, but all of the waste was turned into staff food, making for a better environment as we worked long hours.”

Today, it is London that provides Duncan with the opportunity to really indulge his passion for sustainable food, which means that when he’s not busy preparing menus at The Hospital Club, it’s not unusual to find him foraging for wild food in East London, where he lives, or rooting around for discarded fruit and vegetables at New Spitalfields Market in Leyton.

“I went foraging for wild mushrooms about three weeks ago in Epping Forest and I’ve made my own cider from a load of apples I’ve foraged along the side of the A406,” he says.

Making the world a better place

Unsurprisingly, Cruickshanks brings all of this enthusiasm and knowledge to The Hospital Club, where sustainability is now not only embedded in the kitchen but in all aspects of the club’s operations.

The Hospital Club is certified to The Planet Mark, for its commitment to showing year-on-year improvement in sustainability.

Steve Malkin, ceo of Planet First, provider of The Planet Mark, has co-curated Sustainability Week since its launch. He says: “Our relationship with The Hospital Club was created to establish a series of ‘firsts’: the first carbon footprint for the business; the first opportunity to engage members; and now, the Hospital Club Sustainability Week – the first time such a powerful group of speakers have come together to challenge and inspire.”

Its from this solid foundation that Sustainability Week has been able to flourish into an annual week of workshops, panel discussions and screenings, and which owner Paul G. Allen, describes as “bringing community members together to discuss and share how we can be responsible global citizens and make the world a better place.”

And Duncan urges anyone with a taste for sustainability to come along: “It’s going to be a great week,” he says.

Sustainability Week: full list of events:

Saturday 14th November, 11am: The ‘I Wonder’ Workshop for 6-11 year olds – A fun-packed workshop with performance exercises for children who will explore their ideal world. READ MORE

Sunday 15th November, 11am: The Ocean Workshop for 6-11 year olds – An interactive workshop for children to embark on a magical journey into the underwater world with Zaza the mermaid. READ MORE

Monday 16th November, 6.45pm: Climate Change – When it comes to climate change the world continues to dither – why, how and what should we be doing? With Kaz Janowski (SciDev.Net), Tom Wilkinson (Arts Republic), Emily Farnworth (The Climate Group) and Dimitri Zenghelis (the Grantham Research Institute LSE). READ MORE

Tuesday 17th November, 9am: Smart Cities – What can cities learn from nature and the creation of a new city ecosystem? READ MORE

6.45pm: Smart Cities – How can our cities best adapt to the new challenges they face? With Professor Peter Sharratt, Julie Hirigoyen (The UK Green Building Council), Ivan Bruce (Connect4
Climate), Rebecca Pearce (CBRE) and Simon Joss (International Eco-Cities Initiative). READ MORE

Wednesday 18th November, 9am: Entrepreneurs – A first-hand account of how to seize an opportunity with Arthur Kay (CEO of biobean) and Brij Raja (CEO of MOJA Clothing). READ MORE

6.45pm: Entrepreneurs – A unique opportunity to engage with those defining this new business environment. With James Cameron (Former Chairman of Climate Change Capital), Greg Barker (former Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change), Jason Mitchell (GLG) and Jean Oelwang (Virgin Unite). READ MORE

Thursday 19th November, 9am: Why Does Food Taste Better When It’s Made Good? With Mark Linehan (Food Made Good), Ben Tish (Salt Yard Group) and Duncan Cruickshanks (Head Chef at The Hospital Club). READ MORE

6.45pm: Performance – Live performance with acrobats, dancers, storytellers and musicians who reimagine stories from Greek mythology. READ MORE

Friday 20th November, 9am: Sustainable Substitutes – How to create inspiring sustainable substitutes, not sacrifices with Solitaire Townsend (Futerra) and Aaron Matthews (BAFTA’s sustainability advisor). READ MORE

6.45pm: Me, myself and why? – To do what’s good for the planet, we have to answer ‘what’s in it for me?’ With Suzy Greaves (Psychologies Magazine), Lucia Grenna (Connect4Climate) and Sean Curtis-Ward (Goodwork). READ MORE

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