Sustainable Design Expert, Ezio Manzini, spoke in Norway about the qualities needed for resilient social innovations that are needed to imagine new futures in an unsustainable globalised system. He presented Small, Local, Open and Connected as a motivating vision. Small and local networks today build solutions rooted in a specific place and context but not isolated as they exist with a technologically enabled free-flow of ideas and people which lock innovations into broader networks.

Longtable Project is based on the idea of a network of chefs and producers within in a specific ecological and social environment collaborating via events and projects but also integrating with global trends, networks and innovations. The project occupies an unique space that involves ethical direction and marketing support. 

When we first started talking to committed people in the restaurant industry it became very clear that there was a group of chefs and suppliers who were actively engaged with sustainable issues in the restaurants they worked in.  In the first month we spent time with dedicated chefs, Vanessa  Marx, Christiaan Campbell, Chris Erasmus and Stefan Marais.

As Luke Grant from Table at De Meye pointed out this weekend it’s all about the commitment of people, not necessarily the establishment itself.  (If they move on they often take their values and commitment with them). The organic journey continues of  identifying and meeting these thought leaders and doers in the industry.

They battle on both sides – securing good food from suppliers they can trust and educating consumers who may confront a limited menu and  elevated prices. And most importantly as Abigail Donnelly from Eat Out expressed, it doesn’t matter how great the ingredients are, it’s how they translate onto a plate that counts! Added to that consumers often prefer what they know, grain fed beef is consistent in taste and  extensively marketed as the right thing by the feedlot industry.

There are still a few more restaurants we would love to be working with but we are now actively trying to engage the consumers with our founder members and the efforts they are making.  Importantly on our ‘menu’ we have the full spectrum of players, large and small, in the city and on wine farms and all at different stages on the sustainable journey. But all doing more in a way that resonates with their brand and customers.

At this early stage Longtable Project is:
Small & Local – Limited to 24 Founder Members. Working within Cape Town and the Winelands
Open & Connected – Visits to Copenhagen, Trondheim, London, Berlin and New York. Following and connecting to broader ideas and networks through technology and in person – The SRA, Slow Food, ISDRC, Mad Food Camp, 110% Green,  Perennial Plate among others