Changemaker Jonathan Karpathios: “Absurd that I served meat of a dying breed as a chef”

Jonathan Karpathios is co-founder and chef of The Farm Kitchen, a (corporate) restaurant in Hoofddorp and catering company for companies, individuals and events. Karpathios firmly believes in local produce and dining according to the season. “Nature offers everything we need.”

What is the purpose of the Farm Kitchen?

“We want to introduce as many people as possible to food in a way that is good for the planet, animals and people. For this, we work together with local, regenerative farmers. We ask them to grow organically and not to spray poison. We pay a fair price for the products. Then we use them for our dishes.”

Farm Kitchen started as a company restaurant in an office building in Hoofddorp, where employers recognized the importance of fresh food for their employees, but the concept was (literally) well liked. There will be more new locations next year. “Our goal is to realize local ecosystems in Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, Rotterdam and Almere. This means: local farmers supply us with the products, and we turn them into beautiful dishes for individuals and companies in that area. It is bizarre how much CO2 is emitted today to transport food. We work with farmers within a radius of about twenty or thirty kilometers around the kitchen to prevent this.”

Why do you think we should primarily eat plants?

“You don’t have to, I’m the last person who’s going to force anything on people. Well, of course there are all sorts of benefits. First of all, it is necessary to fight climate change. Do you know how much water is needed for a kilo of beef? A kilo of beetroot requires much less. Plus, eating plants, especially when they’re in season, is much better for your health. Nature offers us exactly what we need, when we need it. Now it’s mushrooms for example, they are very good for your health. Eating plants makes you slimmer, prettier, fitter and healthier. We also focus on the business market, because it is interesting for companies to invest in this: employees who eat healthily are more productive and get sick less often.”

What made you do the cover?

“When I became a father, I suddenly felt that I had to take responsibility for the choices I had made. At the time I was working for fancy restaurants and as a chef I came up with the craziest creations. Until my son was born and I thought, how am I going to explain to my child that I’m serving meat from a dying breed? It’s just absurd. I started researching how things can be done differently and to my surprise it turned out that it didn’t have to be at the expense of the quality of the food. Enjoying good food can still come first. People are sometimes skeptical when they hear that we don’t use meat. But the reaction I most often hear afterwards is: I didn’t miss the meat at all.’

The farm kitchen still uses eggs and dairy products. How did you make this choice?

“I don’t believe in restrictions, I believe in eating as many vegetables as possible. I’m not 100 percent vegetarian either, at the weekend I eat a nice piece of meat every now and then. We all need to take steps for our health and for the planet, but it’s not a competition. I recently stopped having dairy in my coffee. It seems like a small thing, but it was a big step for me. If we all take small steps every day, I believe we will get there.”

Where do you hope Farm Kitchen will be in five years?

“Within five years, we want to regenerate or restore fifty hectares of land. How are we going to do it? We encourage companies to ‘adopt’ one hectare from a farmer. With that money, the farmer can grow organically and sustainably. So don’t spray crops and really give them time to grow It’s better for the produce but also better for the soil.

In the longer term, we want to roll out The Farm Kitchen in Europe. With local farmers, local buyers. Promote a new way of eating and a new way of farming. That we, as a small player, can still have a big impact. That would be amazing.”

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