For Lino Sauro of Gattopardo, one sentence sums up this ethos perfectly: “Sustainability is really about respecting the cycle of life.”
This idea has a special place in the chef’s heart. Growing up, the farm was home, and to eat meant depending on the generosity of mother nature from not just the farm, but also the surrounding lands.
“We reared chickens and harvested their eggs; we planted our own vegetables, made our own olive oil,” he says. “Even for the meats, it was very likely that I knew the cow before it ended up as a slab of steak.”
This cycle of life also meant honouring seasonality.
Fish is one important example. “We will never eat sardines in December, as that fish is available from April to September, while we feast on tuna and swordfish (‘blue fish’) from May to October,” he says.
But it is perhaps in plants and vegetables where mankind’s ability to manipulate nature bares its might.
“Olive trees are good in alternate years,” says the chef citing an example. “If we harvest from this tree in one year, it will not yield as much the second. So we plan to harvest different trees at different times, so they will get sufficient “rest”, and therefore, develop its natural immunity.”
To get an olive tree to be productive every year would be running against its natural life cycle – a trait that some in the industry induce by using chemicals, says Sauro.
Naturally, this approach towards food is carried over into the kitchens of Gattopardo and seen in some of the produce they work with. One such is the gambero rosso, or red prawn, brought in from a Sicilian producer that’s been around for generations and whose quantities are limited as they’re only allowed to harvest a few months a year.
Other sources include fish from New Zealand. “All the fish is harvested by line and hook, one by one,” he says. “Every single boat is given a quota, which they observe.”
What advice does he have for the home cook or diner looking to make eco-conscious decisions?
“Understand the seasons and the alternative choices,” he says. “Instead of red tuna, you can buy big-eye tuna from Hawaii, or a nice yellowfin tuna from Philippines or Indonesia.”
He adds: “It’s going to be tough with Singapore, but equipping yourself with good knowledge is one step to take.”
Recommended reading: View more stories on Italian dining here.