Illustration by Inés Antuñano
Café O, Farina and La Popular are brands that are part of Only Ó, Paola Garduño’s restaurant chain. Garduño is a Mexican chef that started her career in Paris, but her strong roots brought her back to Mexico. Here, her kitchen feeds, but it’s also a tool for social change. It represents a movement that promises to repair the earth, with more and more people joining its cause.
Little by little, chefs and cooks look for strategies to save our planet. It doesn’t matter if it’s trending or not, everyone can contribute from where they stand, and if collectively join efforts, the impact is going to be greater. Only Ó hopes to make a statement regarding the quality of our products and the fact that we push more vegetarian options. Here we are not referring to “a beautiful and perfectly arranged carrot”, but rather the way the carrot as obtained: through a just and rewarding cycle, favoring the earth, the supplier and the consumer. Meat dishes have the worst impact on the planet because of all the resources spent on feeding the animals.
The food industry is responsible for approximately a fourth part of the greenhouse gases, which heat the planet more and more, from the process of production to excessive waste. Us, the cooks, could be the most qualified people in the industry to speak about this topic. We need to seize the opportunity and make use of the attention we are receiving by using our knowledge to help promote a better future. For example, by consuming more local ingredients, we reduce significantly our carbon footprint by not needing gasoline-fueled transport to bring us those ingredients. That is the importance of local consumption.
Nowadays, more chefs are promoting local culture, fighting against food waste and improving agricultural practices to improve the nutritional value of food. Only Ó is taking part in more global programs to aimed at eradicating hunger through zero waste. Throwing away leftovers is just not okay anymore. The information is there, we only need to boost it exponentially.
Respect for ecology is basic when creating a restaurant. Sometimes when we speak of sustainability, we imagine expensive and non-affordable eco-friendly brands. From my point of view, I don’t need the brand needs to turn into that, but rather just adapt sustainable basic strategies which are not expensive at all, but easily applicable. In the case of Only Ó, we have an integral program that goes from the origin of our food, to the feeding of our staff; of course, sustainability refers to the environment, but also to the people that live in it. It wouldn’t make sense to speak to my staff about the importance of an eco-friendly service if they are not applying it to their own activities. Here, during their lunch hours, we share nutritional meals, not hot dogs and junk food that only fill empty stomachs. Speaking to them about nutrition and health is essential.
This is the heart of the matter: teaching. If we can manage to send a loud and clear message that multiplies, a big change appears. Reducing and recycling is an example, we look for strategies that make the consumer want to reduce their own waste. In the case of packaging, we encourage people to bring their own coffee cups, offering a discount in return. It starts as an invitation and evolves into a habit.
A socially responsible alliance
Let’s also support socially responsible projects, let’s look for niches where food is a tool that generates community and inclusion. Let’s take advantage of the fact that gastronomy is a part of everyone’s tongues and we can transcend. In Only Ó we collaborate with Isana Green Farm not only for our raw supplies but also to support the Kalimori residence in Malinalco, a community of people with intellectual disabilities. The people in Kalimore grow the eggs we consume and receive a salary in return.
To me, the benefits of local consumption are very obvious: it’s cheaper for restaurants, the quality is impeccable and the support to local producers is huge. We all need each other, and grasping this is easy; I think in Mexico we are well on the way to new and evolved sustainability programs; we are only missing the right disposition to achieve them.
*Our specialty is the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry.