British chef Russell Impiazzi
British chef Russell Impiazzi is spearheading new sustainabilityinitiatives in a bid to reduce food wastage in UAE Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Renowned British chef Russell Impiazzi is spearheading new sustainability food initiatives and has called for a change in attitudes when it comes to the food we eat, as the UAE aims to reach its target of reducing food wastage by 50 per cent by 2030.

Impiazzi, who originally arrived in the UAE from the UK in 1996, has become a household name in the nation’s hospitality industry and has been at the forefront of a movement to make the food industry more sustainable, while maintaining Michelin star-standards with the dishes being produced.


Now the executive chef at Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk he’s pioneering change with eco initiatives such as the zero-food waste to landfill policy, in-house composting and ‘Dubai Can’ an in-house water filtration and glass bottling system which eliminates plastic water bottles from the hotel. He is also involved in a partnership with the UAE Food Bank to turn food surplus into meals for the local community.

“Sustainability is ingrained into you from the start, you shouldn’t throw anything away, if you can use it, use it,” he told Gulf News, before speaking on the importance of a mindset shift regarding the food we consume — especially meat. “We can’t continue down the road of meat all the time. Wholegrains, pulses and vegetables are the future in my eyes, not new meat alternatives. We need to look at changing the vegetables from the garnish and moving that into the Centre of the plate where the meat becomes the garnish.”

British chef Russell Impiazzi
Russle Impiazzi is in charge of all culinary operations across five dining outlets in a five star hotel in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Poor quality food

Having been a stalwart of the UAE restaurant seen for many years Impiazzi is encouraged by the change he’s seen but admits it’ll take time for the masses to entirely shift behaviour to eating less meat. “We’re not all going to turn vegetarian overnight, but you don’t need to eat meat every day and we need to encourage a few days a week where we eat something else, like pasta or risotto. Ethically, when food was industrialised in the 1960s and 1970s to be bigger, faster, cheaper it was a disaster, look at the health issues older people have now, and to me, it’s linked with the poor-quality food they’ve eaten, full of additives, hormones, steroids in highly processed meat, and we need to change the future for our kids,” he noted.

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Quiet family man

As the executive chef, Impiazzi is in charge of all culinary operations across five dining outlets. When he’s not wearing his whites, Impiazzi is a quiet family man living in Dubai with his wife and three children and prefers to spend time with them at home, cooking local food on the BBQ and teaching his kids how to cook basic meals so they’re prepared for when they eventually fly the nest.

His own journey has seen him working in some of the UAE’s best kitchens and he admits to not knowing exactly which way his career was going to go when he first touched down in Dubai. “I remember I had a big thick woolly jumper, not realising how hot Dubai was, but I was young and hungry and went straight to work from the airport, doing a 14-hour day and I’ve never looked back. I was exposed to authentic flavours with all sorts of restaurants surrounding me. I’ve been cooking since I was 14 and I was always a little ahead of the curve and when I got here, I was the youngest in the kitchen by far and I had to prove myself to the multinational chefs that I hadn’t been exposed to before, but I loved it.”

Local produce

“The opportunity Dubai gives you is that I’ve seen the restaurant scene grow into what it is today. It’s night and day from 1996, even from a produce perspective, as a lot of good chefs have arrived so has the quality of the supply chain. The local produce has expanded, and the quality is much better. The seafood has improved so much and in-season it’s fantastic.”

Sustainability Committee

Impiazzi champions the Sustainability Committee at Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk and under his leadership with the support of general manager Luciano Fontana, the hotel has received the Green Key Certification and the Dubai Sustainable Tourism Stamp Gold Tier for highest adherence to strict sustainability standards in hospitality. He also visited a different school daily for eight days and made an interactive cooking demonstration in which the children participated by making their own healthy lunch with the aim of showcasing the diverse and delicious local vegetables that are available in the UAE.