Paul Da-Costa-Greaves, of Koppert Cress, visited the Dungannon campus of South West College on Wednesday 8th June. Having also spoken across Manchester, London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Istanbul and Oman in the previous week, Paul treated the culinary students in attendance to a talk on some of the latest movements in the world of food.
Koppert Cress produce a variety of cress (fast-growing, edible herbs) which are already being used around the world by chefs, caterers and cocktail specialists. Paul explained how cress can be used by chefs and consumers to make the most of the nature around us, and introduced his talk by showing a conservation international film presenting the message, ‘Nature doesn’t need people, people need Nature.’
Paul, who has had a successful culinary career, presented the message and products of Koppert Cress as something students should take with them as they begin their own culinary journey. Throughout his presentation he continuously passed around samples of the products, offering up several new and unique flavours which come from Koppert Cress’ ten hectares of plants, including cressabi, a peppery plant which tastes similar to wasabi, and the szechuan button, a yellow flower bud that numbs the tongue, and, according to Paul, is akin to the sensation of licking a battery. Presenting these new tastes to the students, Paul stressed the point that as a chef, ‘we can never say “I don’t like it”, we say “today it is not to my liking”’.
Koppert Cress work in one of the most modern green houses in the world; ensuring that nature is the foundation of the company
The reactions of the students as they tasted these weird and wonderful flavours made Koppert Cress seem like the Willy Wonka of the herb world. Yet Paul reiterated that this is the work of nature, and that these plants and their flavours have always existed. ‘We haven’t done anything to them. We take the seedlings, make sure they’re disease free, and put them into production.’ Their main objective is to uncover and create flavours, and discover how these flavours can be worked into recipes.
As such it is important to Koppert’s Cress’ owner Rob Bowne that all products are food safe, and available to use without cooking or cleaning. They do this by using one of the most modern green houses in the world; ensuring that nature is the foundation of the company. From these headquarters in Holland there are sixty-five thousand large boxes of products sold every week, enough to garnish more than thirteen million meals worldwide.
With this unique approach to food, Koppert Cress have been used to help create food for aeroplanes, as the powerful tastes their products produce help battle the fact that our taste buds are numbed at high altitude. Likewise they have worked with celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, who approached them when looking for unique and experimental flavours. Furthermore, they believe their work can even be used to tackle cancer. In recent interviews, owner Rob Baan said, “This is going to be the new future…the green pharmacy.” He claims thirty per cent of cancers are caused by “incorrect food”.
South West College lecturer, Grainne Mulholland, was quick to thank Paul for his visit, and reminded students of the prestigious position they were in by hearing this new and ingenious approach to food. She said, ‘The students have learned something ground-breaking and new, and are in a position to tell their employers about this and offer them some new ideas. As the first students in Ireland to hear this talk, they are so lucky to have heard Paul speak today.’
Finishing his talk, Paul encouraged students to think outside of the box. He said that he hoped he had provided the students with a re-introduction to nature, and one which they would benefit from in their future lives in the culinary world. ‘Enjoy your journey, approach food with an open mind, and as chefs and consumers, your world will be a bigger place.’