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Epicure Autumn 2019

Checking in with… Ben Elliot

Ben Elliot co-founded Quintessentially, the luxury lifestyle group with a 24-hour global concierge service, in 2000, and was appointed co-chairman of the Conservative Party and the Government Food Surplus and Waste Champion this year. Here, he explains how we can all do our bit to tackle the negative impacts of food waste.

In many ways you were an early disruptor in the luxury sector, being one of the first to create private members’ and concierge services with the launch of Quintessentially. What inspired you to create change in this way?

We noticed a gap in the market – the need for a quick and efficient service that catered to the ambitious and affluent community. There was a clear demand and niche globally, beginning in London and now with more than 60 offices around the world.

You were recently appointed the Government’s first Food Surplus and Waste Champion. What are you hoping to achieve?

The UK has committed to reducing food waste by half by 2030, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We have a lot of work to do and a key part of my role is to raise the volume on this issue. Brands, retailers and hospitality companies are all becoming more aware of the implications of food waste, but 70% of food waste comes from households, and consumers tend to underestimate how much food we waste. I want to make sure that we are connecting food waste with the hugely negative impact it has on our environment: all the energy, water, fuel and packaging that goes with it. Every year, an area the size of Wales is used to grow food in the UK that’s never eaten! I’m working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (who appointed me Food Surplus and Waste Champion) and its delivery partner WRAP to launch a citizen-facing campaign in January 2020 that will be a wake-up call on food waste. We must get a grip on this problem.

Travels with Elephants

What can we all do better to reduce waste and protect the environment?

First of all, we need to understand that we all waste food and be more aware of this wastage. Then we can try to identify where our waste is coming from: are we buying too much food? Are we storing it correctly? Are we cooking and then serving too much and so we leave food on our plates? I would direct everyone to WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste website, which has lots of tips on reducing waste. But you could start by focusing on the most wasted foods: bread, potatoes and milk. Coming up with strategies to prevent wasting these three would make a tangible difference to reducing overall food waste.

As well as many other philanthropic projects that you are involved with, your foundation also works closely with The Felix Project, a charity combatting the issue of waste and food poverty. How can companies get involved with similar charities to divert surplus foods to those in need?

There are redistribution organisations like the Felix Project all across the country doing fantastic work. I would urge any companies looking to redistribute food to research these organisations or get in touch with the local council to find out more about work in their community. There is also a plethora of apps that help organisations and individuals redistribute surplus food. These organisations are experts and will ensure that the food you want to redistribute gets to those who need it the most in a safe and secure manner.

Who would be your ideal travel companion (real, imaginary, living or dead)?

My late uncle, Mark Shand. He was an intrepid traveller and conservationist – and an inspiration, having set up the Elephant Family wildlife foundation.

Travels with Elephants

First of all, we need to understand that we all waste food and be more aware of this wastage. Then we can try to identify where our waste is coming from: are we buying too much food? Are we storing it correctly? Are we cooking and then serving too much and so we leave food on our plates? I would direct everyone to WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste website, which has lots of tips on reducing waste. But you could start by focusing on the most wasted foods: bread, potatoes and milk. Coming up with strategies to prevent wasting these three would make a tangible difference to reducing overall food waste.

As well as many other philanthropic projects that you are involved with, your foundation also works closely with The Felix Project, a charity combatting the issue of waste and food poverty. How can companies get involved with similar charities to divert surplus foods to those in need?

There are redistribution organisations like the Felix Project all across the country doing fantastic work. I would urge any companies looking to redistribute food to research these organisations or get in touch with the local council to find out more about work in their community. There is also a plethora of apps that help organisations and individuals redistribute surplus food. These organisations are experts and will ensure that the food you want to redistribute gets to those who need it the most in a safe and secure manner.

Who would be your ideal travel companion (real, imaginary, living or dead)?

My late uncle, Mark Shand. He was an intrepid traveller and conservationist – and an inspiration, having set up the Elephant Family wildlife foundation.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

India. We are looking to do another Travels To My Elephant – a race across India to save Asia’s last remaining elephants from extinction – in 2020.

How do you maintain wellness when you travel?

A routine of some form of exercise every day, whether it be sport or yoga. I recently visited Atmantan in India earlier this year and did yoga every day.

Where are you headed next, and why?

I’m looking to visit Taipei soon as it is the parent of our UK branch of Din Tai Fung, a restaurant I brought over to Europe last year.

What’s in your suitcase?

Books!

Any top travel tips?

Daily meditation for jet lag. Also, get out and absorb yourself in the culture as soon as you can, otherwise you might as well stay at home.

Autumn 2019

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