Sustainability on the menu: doing good through our food

Last month the BBC reported on a call from charity Good Food Oxfordshire for more University of Oxford colleges to sign up to OxFarmToFork. The scheme, which seeks to support local farmers and make the food network more sustainable, has been proudly supported by Christ Church since the beginning of the year. We caught up with our Executive Head Chef Chris Simms to learn more. 

What first brought you to Christ Church, and how do you approach your work today?

'For me, becoming the Christ Church’s Executive Head Chef was to join the top of the Premiership, and to bring out all my potential and skill, improving the whole of the kitchen operation and food offering. You cannot stand still in the Hospitality industry – you are only as good as your last meal, so they say – so we keep pushing on with fresh ideas and dishes. This way the team, our members, clients and guests continue to be well fed and entertained.'

Two of Christ Church's chefs in our Tudor kitchen

What do you enjoy about cooking for Christ Church, and how do you pick your produce and menus? 

'One of the benefits of working in this prestigious environment is that as a kitchen, we are able to explore and experiment, preparing all types of meals, adopting various culinary styles, and cooking cuisines with all sorts of ingredients.

'There are many considerations that lie behind the selection of produce and meals – from seasonality and cost, to the type of event or occasion we are cooking for, the clientele, and any requests that may have been made. We pick the best-quality produce, and ensure that our suppliers offer excellent service and value for money, with attention to sustainability.'

Christ Church's Tudor kitchen
The Christ Church Kitchen is one of very few Tudor kitchens to continuously serve their original purpose

How did we get involved in OxFarmToFork, and how do we keep our menus sustainable at Christ Church?

'The scheme was introduced to Christ Church by our Domestic Bursars’ Committee. There has been growing buy-in to OxFarmToFork within the University community: it has been promoted by Bart Ashton, Domestic Bursar of Lady Margaret Hall, and also discussed within the Oxford Guild of Chefs of which I am an Ambassador. Several members of the Guild are signed up to the scheme.

'Each week at Christ Church, we receive a list of available seasonal produce and we place an order with an agreed minimum monthly spend. In the future, we plan to work closely with the farmers so that they grow the produce that we require at Christ Church.'

'We plan our menus around the four seasons using seasonal produce, keeping that produce as local as possible – and OxFarmToFork supports us in that objective. We buy our produce through a sustainable procurement company, Foodbuy, which aims to shrink the carbon footprint associated with food procurement, support local SMEs, and maximise the transparency of produce supply chains.'

Do you have any exciting plans for the future of the Christ Church kitchen?

'Cooking on fire is a trendy cooking method in the Culinary World once again, and as we still cook in the Tudor kitchens of Christ Church and have the original spit roast it would be great to have it in a working condition once again – although I’m not sure how we’ll manage to get that through Health and Safety protocol!'

Learn more about our commitment to sustainability at Christ Church