Interview: Mauro Colagreco, an Argentinian chef committed to biodiversity 

Mauro Colagreco, Mirazur, France

Each month, we try to introduce you to food actors who are involved in the evolution of our sector. Chefs have a huge role to play, proposing new recipes, promoting and keeping alive craftsmen and culinary traditions while bringing them up to date. Mauro Colagreco is one such innovative chef, constantly seeking a better way to live on this planet while enjoying local agricultural products. Appointed Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity on Friday 25 November 2022, this is the first time in UNESCO’s history that a chef has been entrusted with this mission. In this interview, we reveal the actions that a star chef can implement in his restaurant to promote more sustainable food systems. 

March 2, 2023

Mauro Colagreco, you have been designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for biodiversity in November 2022 for your commitments to biodiversity, what does this price represent to you?

It is a great pride and a great commitment at the same time. It is a recognition that, as a chef, I had never imagined receiving and it is the confirmation that food is at the heart of today’s great challenges and the care of biodiversity. Those of us who work with food as a raw material know the importance of caring for our ecosystems in order to guarantee access to varied and excellent ingredients. 

I have always been convinced of the great opportunity of working in this field, which puts us in direct contact with the earth, with the beauty of life and its care. This is the message we want to convey in the experience we transmit at Mirazur and also in all our establishments, be it our bakery in Menton where we work to value and preserve ancient varieties of grains as in haute cuisine. Being able to do this work with the recognition and endorsement of an institution like UNESCO gives us a new scope and visibility and we are happy about that.  

You opened your restaurant, the Mirazur, in Menton (South of France) in 2006 and were named the best restaurant in the world in 2019, could you introduce us to your very special restaurant?

I think that what makes Mirazur special is a sort of synergy between a special environment that is not only paradisiacal in terms of its scenic beauty, but also in terms of the richness of its products, and a choice of a way of acting and relating to this territory. These two points and the presence of a teamwork without which it would have been simply unfeasible. 

From the beginning I understood that I wanted to work with the best products that the environment offered me and that I wanted to follow the cycles of nature, its rhythms and not the other way around. That is why the first challenge was to understand that I could not present a menu of dishes to my clients, but that in some way nature would choose for us and would propose to us which products to cook with. It was at that moment that the idea of a blank menu emerged, an experience and creativity guided by the rhythm of mother earth. 

This principle, this philosophy, is the same one that remains to this day, incorporating new discoveries and all the evolution of our work in permaculture and biodynamics in our gardens. A never-ending development which, like life, renews itself at every moment. 

In 2020, you were the first restaurant in the world to receive the “Plastic Free Certification”, what have you implemented in your restaurant to receive it?

We have completely eliminated single-use plastic in our restaurant. The most interesting thing about setting ourselves this objective was all the work we had to do to achieve it. Indeed, it is not a job that one can do alone, it is a job with the teams, with the suppliers, with the customers and with the community to transmit our commitment beyond our kitchens. 

It took three years of hard work to achieve the first results and it is a commitment that is always topical through training and actions in the community, as there is a long way to go to reduce the negative impact of plastic on our ecosystems.  

Those of us who work with food as a raw material know the importance of caring for our ecosystems in order to guarantee access to varied and excellent ingredients.  
Mauro Colagreco

March 2, 2023

You were also awarded in 2020 the new category of the Michelin Guide: “Sustainable Gastronomy”, could you explain us this notion? What does it mean technically in a three-star restaurant?

The Michelin Green Star is different from the others because it rewards the commitment of the gastronomy sector to the environment, which is called “sustainable gastronomy”. We know that the global impact of our sector is enormous and we need to encourage and give visibility to all the initiatives and enterprises that, with a lot of effort and going out of their comfort zone, carry out other ways of doing things that generate virtuous circles in their ecosystems. In addition to the classic notions of excellence in the sector, it is important to implement practices that ensure a positive interaction with our ecosystems.  

Food waste and loss results in the loss of about one third of the food produced each year in the world, how, at your level, do you deal with this issue?

We are constantly researching and acting to reduce the waste generated in our restaurant as much as possible. For several years now, we have been working in our gardens with composting our kitchen waste to generate fertile soil that will enrich our soils. But also, through our research kitchen there is a development of procedures to transform and make the most of all the ingredients to obtain new flavors and preparations to enrich our dishes and produce new products such as vinegars, jams, drinks, fermentations, etc.  

You source your vegetables, herbs and garden produce from 4 gardens near your restaurant, why is this so important to you?

When I arrived in Menton to open the Mirazur, I immediately understood the richness of working with local producers and I was amazed by the citrus and aromatic garden at the foot of the restaurant. My first reaction was to work in this garden and enrich it with different varieties of aromatic and edible flowers. This work never stopped, it continued over time, with new gardens being added, the permaculture vegetable garden project, the discovery of biodynamics, ancient varieties of plants, local seeds, and so many other things that continue to inspire our cuisine and our work.  

A large majority of the vegetables you use in your kitchen are from local and foreign heirloom varieties, what do they bring to your cooking?

The principle in our gardens and our work is to celebrate and protect biodiversity. Being able to work with indigenous varieties that are little known or even in danger of disappearing due to lack of use, as was the case with the pink onion from Menton, fills us with pride and allows us to go further in creating dishes with new nuances. The more diversity and quality of products we have at our disposal, the more motivated we will be to create our dishes. 

Moreover, Menton, the village where the Mirazur is anchored, is very special and known for its special microclimate and its gardens. A place where the sea and the mountains meet and give rise to a temperate climate where exotic and tropical plants can grow – an open-air laboratory!


Do you source some products from a regional wholesale market in the South of France? In your opinion, how can wholesale markets protect cultivated biodiversity?

The major challenges of our time require all of us, each at our own level, to make the necessary changes to ensure that life on our planet is maintained. This is a commitment to our children and future generations that is becoming increasingly evident. Large markets can promote the value of local products and producers, raise awareness of the importance of eating healthy and local, of cultivating biodiversity and social ties within communities. This is a necessity and a trend to be encouraged by all our means. 

At Mirazur we work with products from our gardens and from local producers in our region who have nature-friendly practices. Many of them have their stalls in the nearby local markets that we frequent, such as the Ventimiglia market in Italy and the one in Menton. 

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