If you can get the celebrity chefs on board, the rest will follow suit. That’s the theory and in fact you could say that “cooking with gas” is no longer the catchphrase as we move into 2023. Instead, let’s say all-electric cooking is hot.
The Global Cooksafe Coalition was officially launched on Tuesday backed by Lendlease and GPT with a live sizzling induction cooking demonstration that drew a crowd of about 50 curious foodies.
The two developers, which combined, have more than $100 billion in development assets and funds under management say they will commit to a phase-out of gas in kitchens of new developments in OECD countries by 2030 and all-electric retrofits of existing properties by 2040.
Lendlease Global Head of Sustainability, Cate Harris said the company’s $1.2 billion new commercial development Victoria Cross Tower in Sydney was the first building in its portfolio that will be fully electric.
GPT’s head of sustainability and energy Steve Ford said the phase-out would reduce energy consumption and emissions across its portfolio.
“The electrification of kitchens in our assets reduces the use of fossil fuels by our tenants, and subsequently their customers, which plays a role in bringing us all closer to a 100 per cent renewable energy future,” Mr Ford said.
At the two hatted Automata restaurant in Sydney’s inner city Chippendale on Tuesday leading chefs Darren Robertson and Palisa Anderson launched a new report, The Future of Cooking is Electric.
Automata, whose two-hat rating is equivalent to two Michelin stars, is set to close in December with owner and head chef Clayton Wells saying it was time for the next challenge.
On Tuesday, however, the restaurant opened its doors to promote this new challenge to electrify gas kitchens.
Hosting the event were Green Buildings Council of Australia chief executive Davina Rooney, alongside Dr Kate Charlesworth, public health physician representing the Climate Council.
Rodney Dunn, proprietor of the farm-based cooking school The Agrarian Kitchen in Tasmania, introduced celebrity chefs Palisa Anderson – whose family founded the Chat Thai restaurant chain and Boon Luck Farm, and Darren Robertson – chef and co-owner of Three Blue Ducks in Sydney’s Bronte and Rosebery, and The Farm in Byron Bay – for a live cooking demonstration in front of the crowd.
Spotted in attendance were celebrity chefs, including Michelin star-trained chef Analiese Gregory – host of the SBS show A Girl’s Guide To Hunting, Fishing And Wild Cooking, alongside the Sydney food media scene including New York Times bestselling author Sarah Wilson who penned I Quit Sugar.
How to get cooking without gas
The main challenge to overcome when it comes to bringing induction cooktops into the mainstream in the restaurant industry is to combat the myths around gas cooking, which Robertson and Anderson stated are pervasive despite the efficiency and speed of induction cooktops.
“There’s something about gas that people love,” Robertson said. Something about the “theatre”, the spectacle of gas cooking that chefs – and the public – fell in love, Anderson said.
But induction cooktops are far more precise and energy efficient. They can produce lower heat, and can cook much faster, the chefs agreed. As demonstrated by Robertson who seared a steak and Anderson who prepared fried rice in just a couple of minutes.
“Food tastes better in a restaurant because we control the heat very precisely,” Anderson said.
“Good induction means you can replicate this in the home kitchen and get very high heat, very low heat and excellent control. For example, most home gas stoves don’t get hot enough to cook a stir fry, and good induction is a step up.”
The biggest barriers for widespread adoption of electric cooking, the chefs said, was education and training, and implementation costs – but they concluded that it was very fast and easy to learn and the operating costs were much lower after installation.
That, combined with the health benefits of avoiding inhalation of gas fumes and lower temperatures in a commercial kitchen, where temperatures with gas cooking can reach more than 45 degrees.
Ms Rooney said at the launch: “We need to see others in the industry follow suit with similar commitments because the impact of gas on the climate and on human health can’t be sustained.”
Asthma rates in gas-cooking homes on par with secondhand smoking
For decades, “natural” gas has been promoted in Australia as the best way to cook – both at home and in professional kitchens – but recently both the climate and health impacts of gas have come to light.
Research has found that children living in a home with gas stoves have a 42 per cent increased risk of having asthma, and a 24 per cent greater chance of developing it.
A 2018 study estimated that cooking with gas is responsible for up to 12 per cent of childhood asthma in Australia.
The Global Cooksafe Coalition, an alliance of public health, climate, aid and development organisations, multi-billion dollar property companies and leading chefs, have joined forces to fight back against gas.
GBCA’s Davina Rooney commented that it was “heartening” to see top chefs like Neil Perry standing alongside large property companies like Lendlease and GPT, saying “there is no future in gas cooking”.
Another of the chefs backing the campaign is Australian chef, restaurateur, author and television presenter, Neil Perry.
“Electric is definitely the future of cooking in the home and in commercial kitchens,” he commented.
“It’s just cleaner, it’s more efficient and it’s definitely more beneficial for the environment. Everything tends to be neater and cleaner without gas.”