Sourcing Seafood Sustainably: Aponiente
Aponiente is the incredible multi-award-winning restaurant led by Chef Ángel León in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Aponiente holds a three-star Food Made Good accreditation (the first restaurant in Spain to do so) and won the Sustainable Restaurant Award in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022. We spoke to Chef Ángel about what sustainable seafood means at Aponiente and the importance of supporting small-scale local food production using traditional practices.
Aponiente is not just a restaurant, but an ambitious project whose aim is to restore its local ecosystems and re-establish natural balance, simultaneously bringing employment to the area. Ángel León is known for his passionate promotion of sustainable fishing practices, and his mission at Aponiente is to highlight the enormous untapped potential of our oceans when it comes to addressing the climate crisis and improving global diets. In October 2023, the FAO recognised Chef Ángel as a Food Hero for his work to promote sustainable sea gastronomy and raise awareness about water management.
Sustainability at Aponiente
The modern global food industry and production systems are some of the most important factors that contribute to climate change and biodiversity loss. “That’s why it is our responsibility to reduce the ecological footprint of our business,” says Ángel. He’s quick to point out the links between sustainability and traditional food production systems. “We also want to contribute to preserving the green and sustainable jobs associated with this kind of responsible food production.”
One of the challenges in keeping these traditional jobs in existence is that they’re simply not as lucrative as their large-scale, industrialised alternatives. Introducing sustainability to operations is often thought of solely in terms of increased costs or reduced output. “These factors are not attractive in general for most of the food producers that commonly supply restaurants,” says Ángel. “Our mission is to discover new sustainable ingredients – or choose traditional ingredients – that can create or maintain the traditional jobs associated with green food production.”
This is true when it comes to fishing, too: sourcing sustainable seafood often means using traditional fishing techniques, which have relatively low revenue compared to more industrial activities. “This jeopardises the future of these practices,” he says, stressing the need to encourage upcoming generations into occupations like this. “We need to show that sustainable food supply is possible, and that maintaining traditional fishing techniques and generational knowledge is important for biodiversity and, consequently, human health.”
Our strongest principle
Sustainable sourcing forms a central part of the offering at Aponiente and is a big part of what makes the experience here so special. “Our customers are happy to know all that we do to be a sustainable restaurant,” says Ángel, observing that this simultaneously provides a means of educating more people about marine biodiversity loss. “Dining here means our customers also become aware of this very important global problem.”
Aponiente prioritises local suppliers, fresh and seasonal products, preferably organic, as its main sourcing philosophy. The kitchen here doesn’t use raw materials from non-local suppliers or from those that use non-sustainable production methods. For example, the restaurant only uses tuna caught using traditional methods in Almadraba. “Most of the fish we buy is from salt wetlands managed as multi-trophic aquaculture farms. Otherwise, it’s fish that would otherwise be discarded; this supports a better income for local fishermen and reduces the number of big fish caught from the ocean.”
The team buys vegetables grown in traditional plots without the use of pesticides or chemical inputs, and irrigated with saltwater near the ocean. “Sourcing carefully is our strongest principle because it ensures that future food systems will be sustainable and that we don’t contribute to the biodiversity loss associated with food production.”
Food Made Good at Aponiente
In 2022, Aponiente entered as a candidate for the Sustainability Award in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants – judged by The Sustainable Restaurant Association – and won. “We were honored to be awarded, but we knew there was still work to be done.” Chef Ángel was named Food Made Good Ambassador for Spain in 2023, and the team at Aponiente has been working with The SRA ever since. “This is an important Standard that works in harmony with our philosophy in Aponiente,” he says. “Participating in this initiative encourages and supports us to maintain the high sustainability standards necessary for a restaurant like ours.”
Ángel emphasises the need for businesses to make real, tangible commitments to sustainability across the food chain, from production through to hospitality, catering, supermarkets and other related industries. “These can and should include promoting local producers and sustainable distributors, choosing fresh and seasonal products, lowering the consumption of ultra-processed foods and minimising food waste in our kitchens, among others,” he says. “The best way to follow these objectives is to subscribe to an environmental standard such as the one created by The SRA.” The tailored report provided to businesses completing the Food Made Good Standard makes it easy to maintain momentum “and to continue reducing our ecological footprint”.
Looking to the future
In the near future, the team at Aponiente plans to create their own ‘Sea Pantry’, where they can develop new ingredients and experiment with new food production activities. This will be housed in an abandoned traditional salt pan, which they’re restoring especially for this purpose. Here, the team will be capable of producing some of their ingredients right next to the restaurant, following sustainable, traditional techniques. “We also want to develop production techniques for new ingredients such as marine cereal, algae or halophilic plants and fruits,” Ángel concludes.
We can’t wait to see what this development will bring to the table.
Learn more about Aponiente’s innovative approach to sustainable seafood at their website. Make sure you’re following our social channels and the #EatForTomorrow hashtag for incredible stories about sustainable fishing methods and inspiring ways to protect marine biodiversity.
Interested in learning how the Food Made Good Standard can benefit your business? Click here to learn more about the process, sign up here to get started, or send any questions to email@example.com.
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