Women Of The Food Industry – Blanca Del Noval, Chef and Researcher
Blanca Del Noval is at the forefront of the battle against food waste.
Much like Ebru Baybara Demir, Sophia Hoffman, Frida Ronge, Ghillie Basan and Rosio Sanchez, Blanca Del Noval came to Galway, in the west of Ireland, to talk to us about her research in the field of gastronomic sustainability. This research includes wild plants and the art of fermentation. A fascinating woman by all accounts.
I’m talking to women the food industry. How did your career path bring you here?
My interest in food has been with me all my life, but I had never considered it as a career. I was actually planning to study architecture by the time I started thinking about food as a profession. But I needed something else: I love learning, researching new things and I still wanted to go to the University.
So, when I heard about a Gastronomy bachelor degree in San Sebastian I knew that I found what I wanted. When I finished my degree, I started working at the Research and Development department of the University, doing research relating to fermentation and wild plants. This line of work drove me to get involved in projects related to the revaluation of products through cooking; for example, developing products from food waste and using fermentation as a tool for that purpose.
How does your career fulfil you?
I love food, I just enjoy the time while I am working. This is amazing. But also, realising how many things we can change and improve in society just through food, makes me feel I have a great purpose in life.
What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Blanca Del Noval?
I just don’t know. I try to feel good with the things I am doing. I would like to delve into the meaning of gastronomy, exploring how it is involved in other fields and how they are connected. It is fascinating when you work in a multidisciplinary team, all the new and amazing things these people can develop together. The power of gastronomy is still underestimated, but I was very happy to be at Food on the Edge, where I met people that are taking it to its highest expression.
In your opinion, what challenges do women face in the food industry?
The challenges for women and other minorities are the same in all fields: science, politics, sports, etc. There are still a lot of statements rooted in culture that we have to change, but it is not easy because sometimes we don’t even realize it. We have to re-educate ourselves, build a new society/industry together, were we all are accepted with our differences.
Tell us of one woman in the food industry who consistently inspire you and why?
Pia Sorensen. She is a scientist working at Harvard University, trying to connect science and cooking and using education as a tool to teach students about the culinary process. And I also admire her patience and the gentle ways she works with students.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry?
We should start working together, try to be ourselves and accept us as we are. We have to start sharing the way we feel, think and behave; not try to reproduce the same pattern we have seen in males. I think we all, minorities and majorities, should built new patterns to develop a more open mind and free society.
I don’t like to talk just about food industry. Just for two reason: this is applicable to other industries and because food is in many aspects of our society.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
I don’t have an answer. Every moment has its importance at the time it happens.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Enjoy life. People you love are not there for ever and they are the most important thing we have. That doesn’t mean you must leave your dreams fall apart.
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
What is a herb you think is underrated and how can it be used better?
Most of wild edible herbs are underrated outside some kitchens but their rich flavour can be s powerful. I love meadowsweet. You can use the whole plant, both flowers and leaves have a pleasant flavour and it can be used raw or in infusion, in water or fats.