Eco Hero: Arthur Potts Dawson

It Is our pleasure to introduce this weeks Eco Hero Arthur Potts Dawson. Arthur has been a professional chef for twenty-three years. In 2006, he designed and created two sustainably aware urban restaurants, Acorn House and Water House in London. His latest project is The Peoples Supermarket, a not for profit, co-operative and social enterprise.

Arthur Potts Dawson

Arthur Potts Dawson has been a professional chef for twenty-three years.In 2006, he designed and created two sustainably aware urban restaurants, Acorn House and Water House in London.Arthur’s latest project is The Peoples Supermarket, a not for profit, co-operative and social enterprise. Its members work voluntarily, helping to reduce business costs and keep the food cheap as well as good. The idea of the supermarket is to create an urban community business that supports British rural farming.Arthur is also supporting One Pot Pledge and its attempt to get everyone recognizing the superior flavour of homegrown food.

How would you describe yourself?

Holistic food champion

What is your mission?

To connect people to good food. What motivates me is British food, British agriculture and British farming. My mission is to work out how to link this with the urban environment.

What do you care most passionately about?

Being a Londoner, I care about how to make our capital more sustainable. I care desperately about the relationship between city and countryside – it’s not functioning well at the moment. My own solution, as a chef, has always been to get heavily involved with the supply chain. To look at the relationship between energy and waste and to reduce both. This works best if you support regional agriculture. I like the term ‘glocal’ – we need to consider the global picture, but also be locally driven.

You’ve moved away from restaurants and set up a supermarket. Why the change?

This time, I wanted to do more than a restaurant. I wanted to create a food outlet where I could link the grower and the consumer. Acorn House was great but it turned into a middle class eco dining thing which I wasn’t actually aiming for. Everyone called me a green champion, but I wasn’t doing it because green was in fashion. All I was saying was that we should be able to manage our food and waste systems better. Ultimately the eco label didn’t do me any good because it put the restaurant in a niche which I didn’t really want. That’s not what good food is about. Instead there needs to be a sustainable food system that works for everyone and that is affordable for everyone.

What’s the next big challenge?

Supermarkets are hugely responsible for educating the people who are shopping in them. They are the direct connection between the grower and the consumer and they are also the people who are making the most money in this country. We need to get the message into schools, into homes, into businesses on how to buy, how to shop, how to cook.

What’s your next project?

I’m working on a third restaurant but I can’t say more – except that it’s going to answer a lot of questions about the carbon cycle.

What top green principles do you live by?

I’m a product of my society as much as anyone else. Don’t think I wasn’t there in the Seventies, ordering the first Big Mac when Mcdonalds came to London. But I’ve been lucky to be taught by some amazing chefs so I understand the importance of food – I’m also a big advocate of the Soil Association and the Slow Food movement.

What do you eat at home?Organic food – lots of fresh fish, vegetables, rice and homemade bread. I eat quite a bit of chicken, but always organic, free range birds and only once a week max.

Is organic important to you?

I choose it personally, but I don’t use it exclusively in my restaurants because I understand that it doesn’t work for everyone -it is more expensive. Organic food needs to go through a revolution otherwise it will be considered a middle class bourgeois thing. I believe the price will come down before long. Putting nitrates and phosphates on your land is going to become pricey when the cost of oil goes up. I would suggest organic farming and conventional farming will soon be equally priced. That is partly why I set up the People’s Supermarket so we can come together as a group of people and support better farming systems.

What one thing do you wish everyone would do?

Stop wasting food. We’ve got to understand the nature of our purchasing habits; plan meals better, and learn more about the economics of eating. Everyone should sit down and think about their family’s consumption level and then buy accordingly. You might even find you can afford to buy organic food because you’re throwing away 30 percent of the non-organic food you buy.

Who is your Eco Hero and why?

I’ve got lots. Albert and Michel Roux, the two brothers who took me on as an apprentice and taught me about the economy of food – they were serious about food waste at economical level, which made me think about it environmentally. Also, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray of the River Cafe, and finally Carlo Petrini, creator of Slow Food International – he made me realize that one person can make a difference if they believe in something passionately enough.

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