August 6, 2019

Chefs Who Cook Well and Do Good: Arthur Potts Dawson

Name: Arthur Potts Dawson

Hometown: London, England

Age: 48

Culinary Training: At the age of 17, Chef Dawson began a three-year apprenticeship with the Roux brothers. Since then, he has worked at Kensington Place, as head chef at the River Café, and alongside Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall and Pierre Khoffman. 

Best Known For: Designing sustainable and eco-friendly restaurants, raising awareness of food waste in the restaurant and grocery industries, redefining the grocery store, and presenting his TED Talk, A Vision For Sustainable Restaurants

How He Is Changing the Food System: Chef Dawson has been cooking for more than 30 years and has been nicknamed “The Original Green Chef” because of his efforts to create a more sustainable food system.

In 2006, he designed and created two sustainable urban restaurants, Acorn House and Water House, in London that have won numerous awards for their excellent food and sustainable practices, including rooftop gardens, low-energy refrigerators and wormeries, or containers in which composting worms live and help convert organic material such as fruit and veg scraps, garden greens, or animal manure into valuable compost, proving that an eco-friendly approach can lead to profitability. Waterhouse, owned and run by Shoreditch Trust, a charity that works to empower deprived communities, runs a training program that gives young aspiring chefs who might not otherwise get the chance, an opportunity to enter the restaurant industry and gain experience. 

In 2008 Chef Dawson published the Acorn House Cookbook, which shows its readers how to prepare good food from field to fork.

“Everything in nature is used up in a closed, continuous cycle, with waste being the end of the beginning, and that’s been something that’s been nurturing me for some time,” Dawson says in his 2010 TED Talk. “If we don’t stand up and make a difference and think about sustainable food … then we may fail.”

Chef Dawson’s latest project is The People’s Supermarket, a not-for-profit, cooperative and social enterprise. Its members work voluntarily, helping to reduce business costs and keep the food cheap as well as good. The idea s to create an urban community business that supports British rural farming. By doing that, the market is challenging the food industry to achieve a more sustainable and food-secure future  At the same time, he is also supporting One Pot Pledge and its attempt to get everyone to recognize the superior flavor of homegrown food. As such, When asked why he made the change from restaurants to a supermarket, Chef Dawson said,  “This time, I wanted to do more than a restaurant. I wanted to create a food outlet where I could link the grower and the consumer. Acorn House was great but it turned into a middle class eco dining thing which I wasn’t actually aiming for. Everyone called me a green champion, but I wasn’t doing it because green was in fashion. All I was saying was that we should be able to manage our food and waste systems better. Ultimately the eco label didn’t do me any good because it put the restaurant in a niche which I didn’t really want. That’s not what good food is about. Instead there needs to be a sustainable food system that works for everyone and that is affordable for everyone.”

As an advocate for sustainable food production, Chef Dawson often speaks about issues relating to global hunger and food waste.  In 2018 he partnered with the UN World Food Programme to launch a global challenge, called Recipe for Disaster, to end food waste. In addition, he has worked on shows for the BBC Radio 4 food program and writes for The Guardian’s food and travel section.

“Food waste is one of the biggest issues of our time and chefs are in a position to drive behavioural change and offer practical tips on how to use up food nearing its expiration. It is also important to remember that food is often wasted before it even reaches the consumer – so if it does make it into our households and on to our plates, then we have a responsibility to do our best to use it wisely,” said Chef Dawson 

Awards and Honors: 

Social Media

Arthur Potts Dawson

The People’s Supermarket

Interesting stories about Chef Dawson in online media:

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