The Changing Roles of Chefs in Green Jobs and the Role of Career Education in Japan

Tsuji Culinary Institute
Director, Office for the Promotion of Industry-Academia Collaboration
Tamaki Bito

The United Nations has said that up to 37% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from global food systems. As we all reap the benefits of these food systems, we all play a role in global warming. As such, it is essential that we reexamine consumer behavior that up until now has been indifferent to environmental issues, and that we change our routines accordingly. Economic strategy in post-COVID-19 Europe has been focused on “green recovery”, and as one example, the European Commission has formulated the Farm to Fork Strategy. In Japan, too, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is currently putting in place various environmental policies.
Key to these strategies and policies is consumer education. While the fact that these economic strategies take a so-called product-out approach remains unchanged, what is important is to generate demand. To make the transition to more environmentally conscious consumer behavior, efforts in Europe to make environmental education a compulsory part of primary education are progressing, and similar efforts in Japan will no doubt follow suit. Having consumers acquire complete knowledge of environmental issues will help to promote the shift away from this indifferent mindset. However, there are limits to what compulsory education and a sense of responsibility can bring. Added value associated with environmental awareness must exceed price and quality. The automotive industry, for example, has been a gamechanger in linking environmentally conscious consumer behavior to status. In the same way, food systems must aim to link consumer behavior to a more enriched society. The ability to do so will be the key moving forward. For example, the goal for sustainable food systems could be to create decentralized societies or circular and ecological societies. This would ensure that, rather than local consumers feeling like they have to consume local ingredients and organic ingredients, doing so would help to create successful industries based on local food cultures. Goals such as these could be a significant driving force behind the transition to sustainable, abundant food systems.
In Europe and US, there has been increasing attention on the role of chefs, whose responsibility in food systems is to create added value. They are also seen as influencers. Recently, it is not uncommon for chefs to have their own vision for society based on a complete viewpoint. The Michelin Guides, which assess restaurant quality, have begun awarding restaurants with Green Clover symbols. These symbols recognize a restaurant’s sustainability and environmental protection initiatives. Roles in environmentally friendly establishments such as these have been defined as green jobs, and the creation of green jobs has recently been incorporated into the policies of various countries. Although it’s easy to think that green jobs only refer to roles in environmental industries, the International Labour Organization defines green jobs as any “decent work”—that is, a role that contributes to preserve or restore the environment. In this sense, it is important that we transform green jobs into an attractive proposition for the youth who will lead the next generation. Just as there is a common motive for working in medicine and welfare among the youth today, in the future, we will no doubt see an increasing number of young individuals with common career anchors working in green industries.
I believe that for Japan to be a respected, attractive country among the global youth of the next generation, we must work to position green industries and green jobs at the center of Cool Japan activities. Washoku (Japanese cuisine), which has been designated a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage as a culinary custom founded on respect for nature, is a key element that can help us achieve this vision.
In the career education sector, there are many things that we have to do. In developing individuals for green industries, in addition to teaching them about techniques and technologies, we must also promote professional ethics. It is therefore important that we take part in environmental education, which begins in primary education. We must also educate people on washoku based on the principle of respect for nature. Washoku is not only something we must protect, but something we must use to learn about mentality, outlook, and future vision. In doing so, I am in no doubt that Japan will continue to be seen as a “cool” location by people across the world.

Tsuji Culinary Institute Director, Office for the Promotion of Industry-Academia Collaboration
Tamaki Bito