In this issue of Sunday Sessions, La Mia Vita Dolce speaks to Jerome Pagnier – former school-skiver, Hyatt family-member for more than a decade and current vegan-warrior.
It is said that there is no such thing as coincidence so it was perhaps out of boredom, that Pagnier chanced upon a Leonardo DiCaprio-produced documentary that “environmental organisations don’t want you to see”.
Touted as the most “important film made to inspire saving the planet”, it turned this meat-eating man into a vegan. Overnight. It was from that moment on that Pagnier began to spread his enviromentally-conscious word through his role as Food & Beverage Director of the Grand Hyatt Singapore. It may almost be entirely because of him that the property began a journey of meat-free introductions to the market through their popular food truck pop-ups.
Along with Green Monday and a few strategic partners, Pagnier led his team to introduce Singapore to the next wave of food – highly-popular Beyond Burger, Omnipork, JUST and Beyond Sausage. It showed the naysayers that meat-free products could actually taste, smell, cook and feel like meat, without the guilt.
I was born and raised in Versailles, France. A small town of 100,000 inhabitants outside of Paris best known for being the cradle of royalty in the 1700’s and for its beautiful Royal Palace. I was not born nor raised in the Palace but in a small more modest neighbourhood 20 minutes away.
I was a terrible student from a young age, I was more interested in making trouble and spending time with my friends than being in school. I had a habit of faking illness by balling up in my bed in an effort to bring up my body temperature and avoid going to school.
Since I was very young, I was fascinated by Chefs, so much so that around 9 years old I already made up my mind that I wanted to become one.
I started in this business quite early, right around 17 years old by going to culinary school, following my high school career advisor saying “you should go ahead with becoming a cook, your no good for anything else anyway”.
In 2004, after finishing culinary school, I was very lucky to be hired by Park Hyatt in Los Angeles where I started as a waiter. It was my shot at a new life in a new country, I took it. It also was the start of my 15 years Hyatt career that took me to 4 different countries, 5 cities and multiple exciting positions including Director of Food and Beverage at Grand Hyatt Singapore.
Since 2014, I have been living and working in Singapore, a city I truly love and enjoy.
A little over 2 years ago, while at home browsing Netflix, I stumbled upon a documentary called “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret”* which goes through great details into animal agriculture and its impact on our environment. I was shell shocked and could not believe I was not aware of the negative impact of our modern diets.
It was simple, I could no longer be part of the problem and turned vegan overnight. I continued research, found more to read and watch. Realized the issues meat, dairy and eggs consumption had on my health and connected with how my food choices promoted sheer violence and death amongst other sentient beings. It reinforced my new beliefs.
I have now been Vegan for over two years and realized that I could easily combine my passions for the Food & Beverage industry and sustainability. I decided that the advocacy for a plant based lifestyle within the world of Food & Beverage and hospitality would become my WHY, my purpose.
Since moving to a plant-based lifestyle, I have worked very hard along with the extraordinary, and very forward thinking team at Grand Hyatt Singapore to push that message by working on big subjects such as reduction of plastic use and increase in plant based options on our menus. But what really made noise in the community are the plant-based proteins created by leading food tech companies we were able to launch in South East Asia, with a multitude of fantastic partners. From Beyond Meat, Green Monday, JUST, Right Treats, ABillionVeg, Veganuary, etc…
I am so proud of what we were able to achieve over the past few years and I hope we made a strong enough mark on the market to affect change and change minds.
What I realized over the past couple years in particular, is, if you do something you truly believe in with sincerity, love and honesty, others are more inclined to pay attention, listen, maybe even get involved if their values align with yours. This is what I see in my team at the hotel, they are in for the long haul because they payed attention, listened and got involved. It didn’t happen because of authority or hierarchy but rather an alignment in values and a desire to be agents of change.
Because, deep down, no one really wants to be part of the problem but rather part of the solution.
I am sad to have left Singapore, but the time as come for my wife and I to be closer to family after 15 years on the road. We have relocated to Europe where we will first focus on our health and wellbeing.
I will continue to focus on the Food & Beverage industry, advocating a plant-based lifestyle, sustainability and my interest in alternative proteins. My first order of business will be to speak at the Hospitality Innovation Planet Conference in Madrid on the 19th of February, as well as attending the ProVeg New Food Conference in Berlin on the 21st and 22nd of March.
I know that I found my North Star, my purpose, and I believe this will help me work towards becoming the best, most authentic version of myself.
*Another notable documentary brought to you by the same people behind Cowspiracy is “What the Health.” – directed by Kip Anderson and produced by Keegan Kuhn.