Chef Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen of the JAN Restaurant Group has announced that he is a new Ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund.
The article in his weekly newsletter of 25 August follows below:
JAN HENDRIK VAN DER WESTHUIZEN BECOMES WWF AMBASSADOR
25 AUGUST 2023
South African Michelin-star chef, broadcaster and publisher Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen has entered into a partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The agreement cements Jan Hendrik’s commitment to the environment and sustainability, with a particular focus on reduced waste in the food and hospitality industry.
“When you grow up on a farm, you’re very aware of where food comes from and what goes into every plate you put on the table,” says Jan Hendrik. “I’ve always been an advocate of the zero-waste kitchen – not just in my restaurants, but at home too. Whenever I start packing my bags before a trip, I freeze whatever ingredients I know will spoil if left in the cupboard or fridge.”
FOOD WASTE: THE CURRENT STATE
According to global WWF findings, up to two-thirds of all food is wasted in the production, packaging and distribution cycle. The impact of this statistic sparks even greater concern in developing countries like South Africa, where an estimated 2.1 million people go hungry every day according to official figures.
This begs the question: what can households and small businesses do to counter food waste when our current food system is to blame? In Jan Hendrik’s view, the more mindful individuals and small businesses become about the process – and increase the demand for zero-waste food sources – the more likely the industry is to effect change.
“At my restaurants, we take great care to use every ingredient to its fullest potential. When it comes to leftovers, it’s not only about saving food, but using leftovers in new and inventive ways, which also allows for greater variety and depth of flavour,” Jan Hendrik says.
INSIGHTS FROM THE KALAHARI
“At every JAN destination, we take our supply chain very seriously, and establish robust relationships with every one of our suppliers to ensure that we know where exactly our ingredients come from and how they get to us,” Jan Hendrik explains.
Provenance takes on new meaning at a destination as remote as Restaurant Klein JAN at Tswalu Kalahari in a remote part of the Northern Cape in South Africa. When Jan Hendrik first became Culinary Director of Tswalu, he and Executive Chef Marnus Scholly searched the Kalahari for suppliers who shared their culinary philosophy of ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients.
Over and above that, as vast and underpopulated as the region is, their goal was to only source ingredients from within a 300 km radius of Klein JAN. Through seeking out and meeting an array of local suppliers, from biodiverse growers specialising in permaculture to small-scale cheesemakers and family butchers, the restaurant has succeeded in establishing a loyal network of suppliers within its regional sphere. Jan Hendrik hopes to inspire more South African restaurants to do the same.
“The experience of creating a world-class restaurant in such an out-of-the-way and fragile region opened my eyes to the true meaning of sustainability,” says Jan Hendrik. “South Africa is home to some of the world’s most innovative and ethical producers in the world. As chefs and restaurateurs, we hold the power to change the future of our industry.”
Since 2021, he has also played an active role in Taste of Game, an annual event hosted by Oppenheimer Generations Research and Conservation and the African Wildlife Economy Institute, which seeks to establish a greater awareness of game meat as a more sustainable source of protein than farm-reared meat, in turn bolstering the African wildlife economy.
WWF-SASSI AND OUR OCEANS
Since 2004, the WWF Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) has worked to drive change in the local seafood industry by working with suppliers, retailers and chefs, as well as informing and inspiring consumers to make sustainable seafood choices. To support consumers in understanding their sustainable seafood options, SASSI provides easy-to-use tools that categorise seafood species according to a ‘traffic light’ system of red (don’t buy), orange (think twice) and green (best choice). WWF-SASSI endeavours to reduce pressure on over-exploited fish stocks to improve sustainability of the resources, in line with the following objectives:
- Shifting consumer demand away from over-exploited seafood species toward more sustainable options through awareness and education;
- Promoting voluntary compliance of the law pertaining to seafood trading through capacity building and information exchange;
- Creating awareness around marine conservation, responsible and sustainable consumption and production practices.
Ever since the Michelin Guide awarded Restaurant JAN with a coveted star in France in 2016, Jan Hendrik has gone on to grow a multifaceted brand spanning two continents. Apart from the restaurant in the city of Nice on the French Riviera, Restaurant Klein JAN at Tswalu Kalahari, the seasonal Winelands experience JAN Franschhoek at La Motte Wine Estate, a WWF Conservation Champion, and bespoke events at Jan Hendrik’s studio in Cape Town, the JAN Group also comprises a prolific omnimedia division, which includes an award-winning television series, an online learning academy, a website and online shop, a video production department, and in the printed medium, a biannual food and lifestyle publication.
While each media platform chronicles his life’s journey in his signature wholly personable and charismatic style, it also shines a light on our relationship with food, often imparting advice on how to maintain a more mindful lifestyle. Over the last five years, the JAN brand has tackled such pertinent topics as food storage and waste, plastic use, and the plant-based lifestyle, as well as nurturing a better understanding of ingredients, where they come from, and the importance of seasonal cooking.
WWF CONSERVATION CHAMPIONS
The WWF Conservation Champion wine farms are environmental leaders in SA’s wine industry who are collaborating with WWF to tackle their shared environmental risks, protect conservation-worthy land as well as reduce their water usage and implement energy-efficient solutions. Through a voluntary membership model, WWF works with the farms whose landowners commit to biodiversity-friendly and regenerative farming practices. WWF supports these 58 farms in their environmental efforts by co-developing detailed environmental management plans, setting tangible targets and helping them to prioritise actions to address their most pressing environmental risks.In exchange for their commitment to nature and adhering to WWF’s high standards, the Conservation Champions can use the distinctive sugarbird and protea logo on their wine bottles so consumers can make an informed choice to support our environmental wine leaders!
To find out more, download the Champion Wine Farm guide App which lists the Conservation Champions and highlights the different ecotourism experiences, much more than just wine tasting!
THE JAN BRAND’S THREE PILLARS OF SUSTAINABILITY
In recognising the complexity of sustainability, the JAN Group is building its sustainability ethos around three pillars observed by its brand partners and the hospitality industry at large:
- ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS– includes all matters surrounding climate change, water use, biodiversity and plastic use.
- SUSTAINABLE CUISINE– relates to the life cycle of dishes, prioritising local suppliers and supply chains, as well as the preservation of local cultural heritage.
- SOCIAL AND SOCIETAL EMPOWERMENT– delves into issues surrounding gender parity, diversity, working conditions, geo tourism and local activism.
As Jan Hendrik takes on the responsibility of WWF ambassador, he does so with a powerful team of likeminded individuals and organisations behind him, who share his vision of leaving the world a better place, at a time when it has become critical for every human being to make a difference.