LONDON (Reuters) - India Hamilton and Danny Jack use meal worms, algae, tree sap and homegrown flowers in a delicious spread served in a tree house to get their customers thinking about where their food comes from and its impact on the planet.
In a project subsidised by the global health foundation, the Wellcome Trust, Hamilton, a micro-biologist by training, and Jack were cooking 40 covers twice a day from a make-shift kitchen at the base of a tree at the Shuffle Film Festival in an East London park.
The Symbiosis Restaurant is a key feature of the Shuffle film festival curated by “Shallow Graves” film director Danny Boyle who was behind the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
The ethereal restaurant, around 30 m (yards) above ground in the canopy of the lush, overgrown Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, was designed by Jess Sutton and features lightbulbs using bio-luminescence extracted from squid, an ingredient that features in one of the starters.
“It’s an inspirational space and I love the way they use organic ingredients and the concept behind it,” said Ilaria Leone, a content manager at an interior design company. “It kept you thinking as you walked off through the cemetery.”
Each dish has a title that explains a relationship between the ingredients. To represent parasitism, a tacos dish uses a fungus that causes corn smut, the chicken tacos dish that eventually kills the corn on which it lives, and Hamilton says that this represents what humans are in danger of doing to the planet they depend on to live.
“The use of cows for meat, for example, is bad for the planet and bad for humans, as well as the animals,” she told Reuters during a busy service.
“Land needs to be cleared for the cows to graze on, and the meat is not good for human health.”
She hopes that serving the food in the tree house will remind diners of how, in other parts of the world, trees are being cleared to make way for cattle to graze.
The food is elegantly presented, and features edible flowers such as violets grown in Hamilton’s own garden and herbs growing in the cemetery park, which is surrounded by tower blocks in the gritty district of Mile End.
But it is meal worms grown in east London, and served in dumplings fermented with Chinese vinegar, that represent the direction people should be looking to source their protein in future.
Using insects for sustenance will enable humans to wean themselves from the destructive mass production of protein involved in producing meat and some vegetable crops, Hamilton said.
Click on www.shufflefestival.com/ for more on the festival.
(The story corrects name to India Hamilton throughout.)
Editing by Michael Roddy and Angus MacSwan