Words by: Victoria Taylor
Food has always been a central part of culture and a unifying factor that brings people together. However, in the culinary world, there has been a growing movement towards celebrating diversity and cultural heritage, one that Future Plate is leading. Founded by Julian George, Future Plate is a platform that seeks to elevate African and Caribbean cuisine and the people behind it. The company is driven by the idea that food can be a vehicle for change, and its work is a testament to that.
Julian George came from a TV background via Law, studied law at university, and worked in a law firm for several years before making the career change into TV to become an editor. As he spent more time in the cutting room, he felt the need to explore being out in the field, so he picked up a camera and started teaching himself how to film and take pictures. He then started a production company that allowed him to work on a variety of projects, including directing and photographing food and portraits.
The inspiration for Future Plate came from a portrait exhibition Julian did called ‘Made You Look’. Having had the privilege of working with some of the most renowned chefs and critically acclaimed restaurants, Julian realised that he rarely came across black chefs in his travels. This led him to seek out and discover some incredible black chefs doing amazing things but who weren’t getting the recognition they deserved.
Future Plate’s main aim is to shine a light on these chefs, show them to the world, and tell their stories. Julian purposefully developed the concept of making the images black and white with a pop of vibrant colour, indicative of black culture. In every image, the splash of colour was the food element, designed to stop the viewer in their tracks, make them look again, and ask questions about the chefs and their backgrounds. This approach was well-received by the public and exhibited in various galleries, on Oxford Street, and most poignantly at Carousel, where the exhibition ran for a month. During that month, some of the chefs featured got the opportunity to cook the dishes they grew up on for a public audience, truly celebrating their cuisine and culture. That was the spark and inspiration for what has since become Future Plate.
Julian believes that “We have barely scratched the surface of what our cuisines have to offer. Our culinary heritage is rich and diverse, with a wealth of unexplored ingredients and techniques, depths of flavour, and a beautiful mix of meat, fish, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. Once we start to truly explore what our ancestors have left us, our mark on the food scene will be undeniable.”
At the core of Future Plate is the notion of Sankofa, a word in the Akan (Twi) and Fante languages of Ghana that means mining the best of one’s culture to create the present and in turn inspire the future. The chefs who work with Future Plate mine our culinary heritage to create traditional but yet innovative dishes for today and in turn lay down the foundation for the next generation of chefs to follow.
Through its work, Future Plate seeks to educate and inform consumers about the rich culinary heritage of Africa and the Caribbean. The company has made strides in bringing African and Caribbean cuisine to the forefront of the food industry, and its passion for the cuisine and its culture is inspiring. The future of food is indeed bright, and Future Plate is leading the charge.
One of the challenges of promoting African cuisine and culture is the perception that it is inferior to other more established cuisines. Julian believes that this perception stems from a lack of exposure to African cuisine and culture, and Future Plate is working hard to change that. Julian believes that once people start to truly explore what African and Caribbean cuisines have to offer, their mark on the food scene will be undeniable. Despite these challenges, the company remains committed to promoting African cuisine and culture and has partnered with Amarula African Gin to achieve this goal.
The partnership between Future Plate and Amarula African Gin celebrates South Africa’s culinary heritage and the marula fruit that is central to both the gin and the food. Amarula African Gin is made from a base spirit distilled from the South African marula fruit, which is carefully hand-picked, washed, destoned, pulped, and cooled before being distilled into marula fruit spirit. The gin also contains premium botanicals, resulting in a delicious gin with an orange flourish and spicy backbone. Future Plate mixologists have even created their own special cocktail, the Sweet Mother, inspired by the heart-warming lyrics of the African ’70s hit record of the same name. Through their partnership, both brands are committed to amplifying African cuisine and culture, making it accessible to a wider audience, and eradicating narrow-mindedness about the cuisine’s quality and professionalism. With this in mind, it’s clear to see that Future Plate is paving the way for a brighter future where diversity is embraced and appreciated.
Click HERE to find out more about Future Plate.