Auckland chef Kevin Blakeman is championing a worthy cause – he’d like to see the nation’s hospitality establishments ban the use of palm oil.
According to Blakeman, palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, making up a reported 65 per cent of traded vegetable oil and at least one in 10 of New Zealand’s supermarket products contain palm oil.
“Palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia are being destroyed at the rate of 54 rugby fields an hour,” says Blakeman. “Most of the logging is illegal but it’s not just a case of losing the trees. Animal habitats are torn apart and endangered species are slaughtered, with rhinos, elephants, tigers and the orangutan some of the affected. Eighty per cent of the Sumatran Orangutan habitats have been deforested in the last 10 years but damage isn’t limited to the animals – people are robbed of their land and have no other way to make a living.”
While it’s impossible to stop processed food imports coming into supermarkets, Blakeman believes if chefs start by removing processed foods and palm oil laden sauces from their menus, they could lead the way and inspire their customers to take a stand too.
He says it isn’t that hard. As executive chef at the Mercure’s Vue restaurant in Auckland, all dishes are palm oil free and in his previous role, he ran the country’s first palm oil free eatery where everything – including cleaning chemicals – was free from palm oil, “It’s all about getting used to alternative products. For many it’ll be easy, as the more products made in house, the less likely they are to contain palm oil. Let’s see if we can make a difference by slowing down or halting the unnecessary use of palm oil.”