Max La Manna On His Zero-Waste Cooking Ethos

By Jenny Jefferies

3 weeks ago

The green foodie shares his tips


In this month’s column, Jenny Jefferies meets Max La Manna, a low-waste American chef and social media sensation. Through his viral recipe videos and handy environmental tips, Max has inspired people across the world to rethink their approach to food consumption and made it his mission to breathe new life into our leftovers. Max is also an award-winning author, with his recent cookbook scooping up the title for the World’s Best Vegan Cookbook in 2023 – and in 2022, he was named Digital Creator of the Year at the prestigious Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards. We find out more below.

5 Minutes With Max La Manna

What inspired you to help save food? 

I don’t think food needs to be saved, I think our behaviour and attitudes toward food does. For me, reducing food waste is more about money and about the planet. We need to come to terms with the fact that there’s an issue and we have the power to change.

What is your number one top tip for reducing food waste? 

The average UK family wastes roughly a third of the food it brings home; my top tip is to cook the food you have before buying more food. It’s that simple. It’s not just food we’re wasting, it’s money, time, energy, transportation, packaging. Cook the food you have or donate it to a charity. Our intention was never to buy food and waste it – let’s cook and eat!

What does food mean to you? 

Nearly 1 billion starving and hungry people on our planet. Food is life, food means hope, food means connection. If we’re lucky enough, we could have three meals a day; this means you have life, hope and connection on your plate every day.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by MAX LA MANNA (@maxlamanna)

Do you have a signature dish?

It really depends on the season, and at the moment, I’m whipping up a super creamy and fresh pea pesto gnocchi with charred asparagus. Fresh basil and mint – including the stems – are blended with toasted pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice and nutritional yeast. Tossed through the gnocchi with charred asparagus and lemon zest. It tastes like summer and it only takes 10 minutes to make.

You have a brand-new, bespoke kitchen. What are you enjoying the most in your new creative space?

How clean and organised it is. I’m actually cooking a little slower and being more present in my methods. I think by not being in a rush to cook, my food is tasting a lot better.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future? 

The food system is broken and my hope is that we can finally come to our senses and realise that we need to change our behaviour.

Who or what inspires you? 

Lately, I’m cooking more seasonally. I’m inspired by the amazing farmers’ markets in the UK. By shopping seasonally and locally, we not only support our local farmers, but also eat within the seasons. Better for people and the planet.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you can share? 

I’m going to be cooking at Eleven Madison Park in New York City later this year, as well as judging the BBC food and farming awards.