Dishtag meets Heidi Yu Spurrell of Food Made Good HK

Posted on December 1, 2021 by Raffaella Bichiri

We sat down to chat with Food Made Good HK CEO Heidi at their awards ceremony last week, the annual event that honours the chefs, owners and businesses at the forefront of creating positive change across the F&B and supply sectors in Hong Kong.

Heidi has been at the helm of Food Made Good Hong Kong – a chapter of the UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association – since launch in 2019, and was an honour to sit down with somebody showing such great leadership and passion in sustainability. The FMG helps a constantly growing group of restaurants, cafés, bars, cha chaan teng, workplaces and university caterers in the foodservice businesses to operate more sustainably and assesses, recognises, supports and inspires them to reach for ever higher standards of sustainability.

During out discussion we discovered Heidi has a Masters in Food Policy….so it was an honour to sit down and learn from someone so knowledgable about the critical topic of sustainability!! Thanks Heidi for her time for the interview and thanks to lead sponsor Henderson Land Group for helping make the awards such a great event.

Heidi – Can you tell us more about your background? Did you spend most of your life here in Hong Kong?

I grew up in London, but my parents are originally from Hong Kong. I spent many summers here as a teenager which really inspired me to travel more. I took my Masters in Food Policy seven years ago which really opened my eyes to the complex challenges we face in the food system. I continued working in food & sustainability which wasn’t easy as it’s still a relatively new field. However, with climate change increasingly on the agenda in most parts of the world, we’re starting to see more interest in this space.

MONO – Sourcing Award Nominee

When did your passion for sustainability start? How did you get into this industry?

When we lived in Boston, I increasingly noticed that the majority of foods in supermarkets contained all sorts of unhealthy ingredients, especially high-fructose corn syrup. It was actually quite difficult to find decent, wholesome food to feed my kids with. This inspired me to explore the food-production industry, and once I started digging I simply couldn’t stop. Finding the Masters programme was a real gem as it gave me a wider perspective on the food system and the environmental challenges it poses. Later, I had the opportunity to set up Food Made Good in Hong Kong having spent some time working with their UK office. The opportunity to marry my love for great food with sustainability was just too good to miss!

How do you think we are doing in HK in terms of progress in F&B and sustainability compared to other major cities in the world?

There’s been considerable improvement and innovation in Hong Kong in recent years – yet there’s still so much more we can all do. Consumers generally understand the problems caused by energy, plastic packaging and waste – and there’s a growing awareness of how important sustainability is, especially when we all live in such a dense urban environment. However, there’s much less awareness about the overall environmental impact of food production. It actually contributes around one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, so there’s a huge opportunity to slash this. Certain western cities are currently leading the way with regard to issues such as farm animal welfare, seasonal food sourcing, and eliminating human-rights abuses from supply chains.

That said, sustainability is a journey and all businesses must continue playing their part to create positive social and environmental change!

MANA – Environment Award Winner

Can you name 3 things that a restaurant can do to start being more sustainable?

Common areas that we’re working on with many Member restaurants include:

  1. Waste Management – Hong Kong disposes of 3,600 tons of food waste each day(!) so there’s a huge opportunity for restaurants to start measuring their waste sources (including prep and plate waste, and spoilage) then draw up a comprehensive plan to significantly reduce this
  2. Plastics – the food industry with its complex supply chains uses huge volumes of plastic. Businesses should urgently rethink what purpose all this packaging serves and how they can drastically reduce it.
  3. Local Sourcing – in Hong Kong, we import 95% of our produce(!) While we’re restricted by having such a small land area, we must do much more to support farmers here in Hong Kong and also neighbouring Guangdong province to ensure food production remains regional.

Do you have any practical tips for our readers on how to make a difference as individuals for a zero (or less) waste lifestyle?

First, rethink what waste you’re disposing of. Identify where most of your waste is coming from, then make small steps in certain areas. Ask yourself what small lifestyle changes you can make to avoid generating waste in the first place. Remember your reusable bag when you go shopping. Don’t be shy about asking for a doggy bag in restaurants for any surplus food. Always carry a water bottle with you that can be refilled with tap water. Discuss this with your friends, shopkeepers and restaurant staff. Let’s keep reminding each other that we must work collectively to reduce waste

Recycling in Hong Kong. We feel it’s not easy to find recycling points and that they’re often very small and full. Do you have any tips on how to improve this as individuals?

First, we must think about how we can bring more value to waste items before deciding to recycle them. Can they be reused in any way? Can we reduce the amount of packaging at purchase so we don’t have to worry about disposing of it? Second, don’t give up! Think creatively about how you can better utilise your space at home. Can you compost any food waste? Can you separate your recyclables so they can be more easily disposed of? Green recycling centres are popping up all over the city and they’re truly fantastic! You get incentivised with tokens based on the amount of waste you dispose of and they collect a really wide range of items.

SOMM – Business of The Year Award Winner

As we’re in the ‘spirit’ of the Food Made Good Awards, can you reveal your three personal fave restaurants in Hong Kong (both from a food perspective and also in terms of their sustainability impact)?

That’s a really tough one as this city is full of amazing restaurants! Yet I find myself continually returning to these three – Arcane, Bedu and SOMM. And of course, let’s not forget Sakti Elixir Bar at Fivelements Habitat before it closed.