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Celebrity Health - Max La Manna

Max La Manna talks to Liz Parry about his mission to reduce food waste and encourage sustainable cooking

Image of Max La Manna © Lizzie Mayson

Award-winning chef and social media star Max La Manna is making it his mission to inspire people to reduce their food waste and rethink their approach to food consumption. Max, a former model and actor, has developed and presented several series with BBC Earth, including the 2020 series, Regeneration Food, which highlighted the problem of food wastage in the UK. Here he speaks to YHL about his new low-waste, plant-based cookbook You Can Cook This!

Q What prompted your interest in sustainability and low-waste cooking?

Max: It all started when I was working in restaurants and saw how much food was being thrown away. I went home and looked in my own rubbish bin at the food that I was throwing away too. I thought how can I be upset at the restaurants when I’m doing it myself? So I started looking for ways to use the whole ingredient, the whole vegetable. And I documented my research and my recipes on social media. Hopefully due to the content that I create, other people can make changes as well. And I always say that small changes can lead to a big impact.

Q Tell us about your new book.

Max: We live in a throwaway society. Food is being wasted every single day. According to WRAP, (Waste & Resources Action Programme), every household in the UK throws away roughly £800 of edible food each year. Every day we throw away 20 million slices of bread, 4.5 million potatoes, over 1 million bananas and over 1.2 million bags of salad. The recipes in my new book are designed to help readers use up the foods they already have in their cupboards and fridges without needing to go out and buy even more food. The aim is to help people save time, money and waste. All the recipes are plant-based and focus on the most commonly thrown away ingredients, like bread, potatoes, bananas, beetroot, broccoli and cauliflower.

Q Do you have a particular favourite recipe?

Max: Yes, I’d say my beetroot bucatini. It uses the entire beetroot, which is roasted or steamed – you get to choose – and it’s blended into this nice, creamy smooth sauce with nutritional yeast. It’s tossed in with cooked pasta and the noodles go from this pale gold colour to this vibrant red magenta, so it’s a really fun and vibrant dish and very easy to put together.

Q What are your best tips for how to cook in a low-waste way?

Max: The first one is probably the simplest and that’s looking to see what food you already have before you go out and buy more food. I think a lot of people tend to go to the store because it’s a habit and they end up buying more food than they actually need. And that’s why we are throwing away so much. So first and foremost do an inventory and see how much food you have available in your fridge or cupboard and cook that food right away. Then, if there are leftovers, store them properly and maybe even freeze them. Also, try to find recipes that inspire you to cook.

Q How do you ensure that you stay healthy?

Max: I’m really fortunate because being able to cook the way that I cook, plant-based, has given me a better outlook on life, both mentally and physically, maybe spiritually. I think that other factors are involved in this too. Sleep is huge. I like to get my eight or nine hours of sleep. I go to bed early. I wake up early. Also meditation, cold water therapy, drinking tonnes of water, getting outdoors, spending time with friends and laughter. Laughter is a great way of staying young and being mentally sharp and healthy.

Q So again it's the small changes that make a big impact.

Max: Yes, I think all these things are important. A few years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life where I thought, 'What am I doing in life? Where am I going? How can I improve my current situation?' And so I wrote a list of 10 things that I could see myself doing every single day. Some of them are pretty mundane things like smiling, stretching, drinking water and cooking a meal for myself. I don't manage to do every single one of them every day, but it's something I strive towards. If I can do at least a few of those things each day, then I know that I've done something that's going to make me happy and that will put a smile on my face.

Find Max at @maxlamanna on Instagram. Max's new cookbook, You Can Cook This!, is published on 30 March 2023 and available to pre-order now.

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