|A chef at the Victoria and Albert Museum's restaurant chef collects mushroom grown in coffee grounds in this undated photo. Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London|
By Kim Se-jeong
London's Victoria and Albert Museum has the world's oldest museum restaurant, which was established in the 1850s.
Earlier this year, the museum created an interesting recycling project ― growing mushrooms using waste coffee grounds as a fertilizer. The museum's chefs harvested them to serve visitors.
"We looked what waste we had. We have a big cafe that serves over 1,000 cups of coffee a day. So that generates lots of used coffee grounds. We worked with experts who grow mushrooms on coffee grounds, a chef from our cafe came and harvested them and served visitors to the cafe," Flood, the curator of the prints, word and image department of the V&A Museum, told the Korea Times Tuesday.
She was in Seoul this week to share her experience with the exhibition and thoughts on the food chain at a conference organized by the Seoul Upcycling Plaza.
The experiment ran temporarily between May and October. The museum restaurant is too small to keep the mushroom project going. Coffee grounds from the in-house cafe now go to a local bio biogas company.
Asked what inspired her to put together the exhibition, the British curator said food recycling is something that all community members need to participate in to garner desired results.
"It is such an important subject because it is at the heart of ecological challenges. And it involves everyone ― we all eat. Museums are an important place to have discussions about challenges and the future."
Starting with waste and its management, the exhibition displayed how food is grown on a farm, processed and cooked before reaching the dining table. She also engaged artists and designers with authentic projects using agricultural materials.
For example, the exhibition featured artists who make bioplastic using cooking oil and microorganisms from coconut water. Another invited artist showed a rooftop garden in Hong Kong. An artist from Belgium featured is involved in cross-breeding different species of chickens. The exhibition also invited one Korean ceramic artist who used urine as a glazer.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly one-third of food people produce is lost or wasted around the world, which amounts to 1.3 billion tons per year.
In the developed world, one person generates an average of 95 - 115 kilograms of waste per year.
Flood said food waste in the U.K. is just as bad as in other developed countries and claimed the exhibition made her feel more responsible for the food that she consumed.
However, the curator said she is optimistic about the future of food because of growing awareness campaigns. She mentioned a local project in the U.K. funded in part from the profits made by a local business that brews beer using wasted bread.
The mindset of the young artists and designers she met during the preparation of the exhibition was also encouraging to Flood: "There were so many young artists and designers deeply interested in sustainability, how to create a better future, not just making objects."