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10 Minutes with Xanthe Gladstone on Food and Sustainability

10 Minutes with Xanthe Gladstone on Food and Sustainability

Photo Credit: Department Two 

This week I was lucky enough to spend some time with Xanthe Gladstone. Xanthe is a chef and food sustainability advocate. She is partially self taught but has attended the world renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School, to take their six week sustainable food course. Xanthe’s mission is to educate people of the positive effects that the right food choices can have on ourselves and our environment.

Would you tell us a little bit about what you do?

I’m a chef, organic grower and baker based in North Wales.  I work part-time as the Director of Food & Food Sustainability for my parents’ businesses which are a farm shop  a puba festival  and a holiday accommodation business developing menus, overseeing food sourcing, and training staff. It’s great and I love the balance between that work and my cheffing and gardening work, I get to be outside and breath two days a week. I ran a supper club company called Knuckle with my boyfriend, but that has been on hold since March for obvious reasons. 

I think a lot of people have a different takes on what is ‘sustainable’ how would you define it?

Sustainable, to me, refers to having a connection with how and what we consume. This refers to food in my case, but importantly it also refers to clothes and many other things. More specifically, being sustainable would mean understanding the value of how our food is produced and what the negative impacts on our health, the planet, and animals are if we do not value food properly.  

How and when did you get into food sustainability?
It is something that I have been interested in for a long time and had dabbled in before I made a career change. From University, I went straight into drinks marketing for a year and realised that I wasn’t suited to an office job. It took me a while to have the confidence to realise that I could actually follow a career in something I felt really passionate about. I trusted my decision and made a change quickly. I quit my job, moved to Wales, built a small vegetable garden, then booked myself onto a 6 week sustainable food course at Ballymaloe Cookery School. I became more and more passionate very quickly, the floodgates were kind of open and there was no turning back! I’ve been doing it for about a year and a half so feel that I have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
What do you think are the biggest environmental issues that the food industry faces today? 
This is a big question because there are so many issues that the food industry faces. I will name the biggest one, to me, and the one that I feel most passionate about. Once upon a time all of our food would’ve been produced on one farm; the dairy, the fruit, the vegetables, the meat, and the eggs, but now there is a separate farm for each crop and each animal and animal product. Planting the same crop year after year in the same place wreaks havoc on the soil in that it weakens it and then the plants cannot grow properly without the use of heavy chemical fertilisers. This obviously weakens the soil even further, meaning that more chemicals are needed to help the plants grow. These chemicals not only effect our health and the health of wildlife, but when soil is left this depleted, it stores less carbon, meaning that more greenhouse gases are omitted. When soil is healthy through methods such as organic regenerative farming, it can store huge amounts of carbon that would’ve otherwise gone into the atmosphere. It is a vicious cycle of damaging environmental issues and is a consequence of society's devaluing of food. Sadly, most food is now produced in this industrialised way unless we really strive to source food from small-holdings and organic farmers. 
Do you have any advice on how we can reduce our own food waste?

Food waste is one of the things I am most passionate about, so I have a few good tips. Do you know that 1/3 of all food we produce ends up in the bin?! That is so crazy to me. Don’t be led by expiry dates, be led by your own intuition, smell and taste buds. If something has gone a bit wrinkly, don’t immediately through it out, roast it and it’ll have a new life, or add it to homemade hummus. If you have a number of different vegetables going off in the fridge, add them to a big pot and make a slow cooked vegetable stock. When you buy vegetables, especially herbs and leafy greens, that come in plastic packaging, take them straight out, wash them, and wrap them in a tea towel or paper towel. Often the plastic wrapping is what causes them to go mouldy very quickly and you’ll give them a much longer life by doing this.

Other than buying organic are there more affordable ways to lessen our environmental impact when it comes to food consumption?

I would say be aware of where your food comes from and what’s in season. There are so many excellent resources for understanding how to eat seasonally. An Instagram page I love called Mainly Breakfast does an illustrated monthly round up of what’s in season, that’s really useful. Every supermarket should have the origin of the vegetables on it, so just make it a habit to check where it come from. If asparagus has flown in from Peru in December, is it really going to taste as good as asparagus from the UK in April? Eating this way makes it more of a treat when specific vegetables do come into season. 

What are your top three restaurants and why?

Rochelle Canteen in London is amazing. I have only eaten there once but the quality of everything that comes out of there is incredible and their menu is based on the principles that I strongly follow when it comes to food. Simple dishes based on quality, local ingredients. 

Stoney Street. Again, I love the concept of simple seasonal eating. They put so much emphasis on properly sourced ingredients, and that is so exciting to me. I love somewhere that you go and each time you eat something completely different. 

Portobello Pizzeria. My favourite food is Italian food and this place does it so well. It’s so comforting but there is also so much quality in the food, particularly the sourdough pizzas. 

(I have so many more favourites in and out of London!) 

During isolation we have been forced to slow down and practice more sustainable ways of living do you think this is something you will take forward coming out of isolation?
This period has definitely taught me how to slow down, and connect more with what I am doing in the present moment which is something I will definitely try to continue. I think generally, it’s taught people to connect more with where their food comes from, support small businesses, and maybe dabble in growing their own food. This is something that I really hope continues.
How much do you consider the sustainability of a garment when considering a purchase? 

The sustainability of a garment is at the forefront of the consideration I’d make when buying an item of clothing, I wouldn’t buy something if it didn’t align with my values when it comes to production and materials. I feel that I cannot shout out about sustainability in food decisions without having the same values when it comes to clothes. It can be more challenging, but with a bit of research and question asking, it can be really rewarding to shop sustainably. We have to stop being lazy and think/research properly before we buy. 

Which are your go to brands?

I actually go to Ebay a lot to buy clothes, especially jeans, as second hand is really the way forward. I also love Henri London, Skall Studio, and Treen in Edinburgh has a fantastic online shop of many different sustainable brands. I love Pico and Lara Intimates for underwear. Obviously Kapara, which goes without saying! ;)

How do you like to switch off?

I love baths! I have a bath almost every evening and it’s my way of disconnecting from work at the end of the day. I pile in the Epsom salts and essential oils. I sound crazy, but if I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed during the day I go and hang out with my hens (I have 20!), they make me feel really calm. 


Xanthe's links
1. Hawarden Estate Farm
3. The Good Life Experience
4. The Glen Dye Cabins + Cottages
7. Stoney Street
8. Portobello Pizzeria Portobello Pizzeria
9. Henri London
12. Lara Intimates