The year 2022 has been a good one for Japanese chef Natsuko Shoji, owner of Été Restaurant in Tokyo and one of the chefs we invited at so good.. magazine 29. to talk about sustainability. Elected Asia’s Best Female Chef 2022, by 50th Best Restaurant and The Best Chef FoodArt Award 2022, by The Best Chef Awards, Natsuko’s work in the fusion of fashion and art with cooking and pastry making stands out. But also her concern for the environment and the future of gastronomy, ‘the food industry and its surroundings are in danger. For the younger generation, they need a successful role model,’ she warns. So in her restaurant, which she founded when she was only 24 years old, she implements some measures to combat these dangers, ‘I introduced the biodegradable compost to my alma mater. The students use the compost to fertilize their vegetable garden, and harvest the vegetables from there, and use them at the cooking class. It’s a beautiful cycle,’ says the chef.
An unbeatable example is her iconic pastry creation, Mango Tart, which is featured in this article. It is sold in a special box, designed and decorated together with other artists, so that the customer can keep it and even reuse it to buy a new cake.
How could we explain what sustainability consists of in the world of gastronomy in general and in patisserie in particular?
Not only zero waste or food milage, I think it is important to sustain our industry itself. Nowadays, especially after the covid crisis, the food industry and its surroundings are in danger. For the younger generation, they need a successful role model. So I started teaching that to my alma mater, while I try to raise the next generation. In the pastry section, we can do many things. For example, I have a restaurant and a cake shop, and at the cake shop, I only make cakes by request. In this way, there’s no wastage.
The food industry and its surroundings are in danger. For the younger generation, they need a successful role model
Why is it necessary for pastry chefs to become aware of practicing sustainable pastry?
Everything on our earth is limited, and we need to use it wisely.
How can sustainable pastry be practiced? Can you give some examples of practices that you have incorporated into your daily work?
I introduced the biodegradable compost to my alma mater, and every trimmed part of ingredients from my restaurant and the cake shop go there. The students use the compost to fertilize their vegetable garden, and harvest the vegetables from there, and use them at the cooking class. And the trimmed part from the cooking class also goes to biodegradable compost. It’s a beautiful cycle.
What can the sector do, from the pastry chef to the supplier of products and raw materials, including schools, to contribute to sustainability?
We can change the ingredients to organic, low-environmental impact produce. For example, I use mango from the greenhouse, but to warm up the greenhouse, the natural heat from a hot spring and ‘tempura’ oil are used.