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A sumptuous charity fundraising dinner that taught me an important lesson about food waste

The entire meal was cooked by Brunswick House’s star chef, Jackson Boxer, from food that would otherwise have been thrown away

Chris Blackhurst
Saturday 28 November 2015 02:01 GMT
We throw away so much that could otherwise be used
We throw away so much that could otherwise be used

Not all bankers are evil so-and-sos just in it for themselves. One who can lay claim to being on the side of the angels is Saadi Soudavar, managing director in equity capital markets at Deutsche Bank in London. He’s a big donor to Feedback, the charity devoted to reducing food waste.

The other evening, Mr Soudavar organised a dinner for his friends and their guests at Brunswick House in London’s Vauxhall, so they could get the Feedback message. The entire meal was cooked by Brunswick House’s star chef, Jackson Boxer, from food that would otherwise have been thrown away. The first item was billed as “stale bread & curdled milk” – and delicious it was too. That was followed by a salad made from mis-shapen vegetables deemed “too ugly” to sell by retailers. They were perfect.

On the feast went, to a pig that had been fed swill, unwanted human food, now banned under European law – this despite pigs having been raised on the stuff for centuries. We finished with “windfall apples & malted barley” – apples left in Kent orchards because they’re too small, too big or the ratio of red to green on their skins is not correct. Feedback volunteers collect as many as they can and give them to people in need. It was a shaming but inspiring occasion.

We throw away so much that could otherwise be used. Thanks to the energy of Feedback and its founder, the author and campaigner Tristram Stuart, however, the downside of our appalling behaviour is getting across (

What was uplifting, too, was the support of Mr Soudavar and his pals. He’s a young guy, on the rise. For once this was not a charity fundraiser attended by the well- padded middle-aged – many in the crowd were couples with small children and were genuinely concerned for the planet’s future. All credit to them and to Feedback.

A new twist on bottle tops

Sticking to the waste theme, the veteran UK inventor Willy Johnson is in touch. He’s come up with ToPo, a plastic bottle top that converts into a toy brick (imagine something like Lego but larger). The bricks can be joined together to make towers and shapes, again just like Lego. Every week, an untold but almighty number of screwtop bottle caps are thrown away without a thought. By replacing them with ToPo, children – especially those in the Third World who have nothing – will get a free, educational toy. Dr Johnson has patented ToPo here and in the US, and it really ought to sweep the globe.

Corporate commander

It’s not every day you get to meet a military commander, particularly one who has a lot to say about business. But listening to General Stanley McChrystal, the former US army head of the coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’m forced to concede: I wish he’d wade into one or two of our big businesses. Blimey, he’d sort them out. In the UK to promote his book Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World (Penguin), a bestseller in the US, it’s easy to see why the ex-soldier and his McChrystal Group are in such demand among companies looking to improve.

“People are capable of extraordinary things if their leader can create the atmosphere which allows that to happen,” he says. “Why? Because the US army takes average talent – they’re not the best students or best athletes – and gets an above-average outcome from them.”

Companies, he argues, spend too much time recruiting stellar graduates. “What they should be doing is working on hiring decent people, then working on them to make them better. How often do you hear a chairman or CEO say their own company would not take them on today because it’s looking for more qualified recruits? That’s crazy. Unless they’re a bad chairman or CEO, the company should be looking to recruit the same, and then mould them so they turn out the same as the current good chairman or CEO.”

I recall how a bank at Canary Wharf used to cover its lifts with posters proclaiming how it had hired top students from only the very best universities. Its name was Lehman.

Like Apples and M&S....

At the Finsbury PR drinks party, I can’t help but admire Marc Bolland’s watch. The Marks & Spencer chief is wearing what looks an especially sleek version of the Apple Watch. Cue Mr Bolland explaining how Apple sought out M&S Digital Labs (no I’d not heard of them either, but apparently M&S employs 200 hi-tech whizzes) and asked them to adapt its Cook with M&S app for the watch. The app, which is the number one for food and drink in the App Store, provides recipes and shopping lists. The type they made for the Apple watch, he shows me proudly, also includes alerts so chefs can time their work exactly. Apple and M&S in tech collaboration, who would have thought it?

Sporting lesson for Goldman

The appointment of the new England rugby union coach Eddie Jones to the advisory board of Goldman Sachs in Japan is arresting. The Australian coached Japan to glory, defeating the mighty South Africa in the recent Rugby World Cup. Now Goldman, whose local chief, Masanori Mochida, adores his rugby, has paid him a fine compliment.

Jones won’t be the first sports guru to assist the bank. In London Matthew Syed, the former table tennis player, writer and author of Bounce, a book exploring the “science of success”, is a regular hitting partner for some of Goldman’s leading lights (little known fact: they love their table tennis at Goldman). He is also used by the bank as a motivational speaker.

Mr Syed’s latest work is Black Box Thinking, in which he describes how institutions and individuals can learn from their failures to become stronger. Charged with trying to resurrect England’s fortunes, Jones might want to get hold of a copy.

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