Associated with University of Warsaw Botanic Garden

Warsaw Culinary Festival - Plants, Pollinators and Honey

“Warsaw Culinary Festival – Plants, Pollinators and Honey,” was a major event in the Warsaw culinary scene, and the first of its size to connect gastronomy with environmental stability. It took place in the University of Warsaw Botanic Garden between 8-10th September and combined lectures, science cafes, workshops and a culinary fair. Our aim was to combine the scientific debate on food security with the chance to taste, watch, walk, learn and talk. The event was organized in cooperation with three partners: Food Lab Studio, Szkoła na Widelcu (School on a Fork) an educational fund and WZORY ( Patterns in English).

Food festival at UniWarsawPhoto credit: Kamil Zielinski

The festival aimed to bring together partners and audiences from the culinary scene with scientists and experts working on environmental issues and sustainability. Working closely with our partners the culinary festival took shape, each partner bringing in their expertise and audiences. 

Food Lab Studio and celebrity chef Grzegorz Łapanowski invited chefs and experts on Polish cuisine and attracted a wide audience interested in gastronomy. The botanic garden brought in scientists from the University of Warsaw and Warsaw Medical University, as well as from a variety of organisations working on food security and the environment such as Marine Stewardship Council, WWF and Greenpeace and policy makers from the Ministry of Agriculture.

The festival took place in the garden and the rainy summer surprised us with two beautiful September days. A grand opening dinner took place on Friday evening, attended by policy makers, scientists, speakers, lecturers, participants and journalists. 

On Saturday and Sunday lectures, science cafes and workshops took place in the garden’s lecture hall and outdoors, complemented by a fair with stalls of local honey producers, local farmers and Warsaw restaurants.

Lectures at the uniwarsaw food festivalPhoto credit: Kamil Zielinski

Lectures included “On Good Food – what does ecological food really mean?”, “On New Cuisine  - does it exist?”, “On Taste – what do Polish people eat?”, “On Food Waste – can we reduce it?” , “On the Future of Food – will there be food for future generations?”. Following every lecture, the moderator invited the speakers and the audience to a science café to continue the debate in the garden. Conversations continued for hours, during the longest café, farmers discussed the impact of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides on crops with Warsaw residents.

Workshops included “Edible Wild Plants”, “Entomology Trail”, “Composting for Beginners” for adults. The botanic garden team and School on a Fork co-organized workshops for children, including “From the garden to our plates,” and “Guess which plant?”. There were educational walks through the garden and greenhouses, food shows and tastings.

workshop on edible plants at food festival at uniwarsawPhoto credit: Kamil Zielinski

We also created BigPicnic Information boards, focusing on different aspects of food security: “Food and Research of the Botanic Garden”, “Intense Farming”, “Pollinator Biodiversity”, “Soils and Composting”, “Plant Biodiversity”, “Food Waste”. These were located in different points in the garden and two volunteers invited to visitors to read and discuss the themes.

Additionally a nearby independent cinema participated in the Festival screening a film on food security each evening, in partnership with the Films for Food initiative.

The Festival was a great success, with approx. 8000 visitors, many of them visiting the Garden for the first time. One visitor explained “I came to be in the Garden, it feels like being out of the city”, someone else came to the festival because “We live in such times, there is such an abundance of food, I wonder what to do with the food waste?”

Success can also be measured in the involvement of 60 volunteers, who helped enormously with preparations, including some of the art work. One of them explained: “I’m interested in pollinators, because my grandfather had bees, and I have great sentiment for them. Volunteering is a chance to learn something, but also to help others learn something. I’m interested in plants, and a plant based diet.”

The Festival was widely featured in the media. It was covered 130 times: appearing in radio, television and press. A number of radio broadcasts focused on the subject of food security.

The Festival was a major event for the garden, preparations took over 4 months. We are currently planning the main subjects of the second edition with our partners.