The bug-eating chef. Joseph Yoon, a New York City-based chef, embarked on a journey into the world of insect-based cuisine four years ago, initially as part of an art project. Today, he is the executive director of Brooklyn Bugs, an organization dedicated to promoting the consumption of edible insects as a source of delicious, nutrient-dense, and sustainable food.
A Fascination with Insects
Yoon’s passion for insects is palpable: “I absolutely love insects,” he exclaims. The incredible diversity of insect species and their vital role in our ecosystem captivate him. There are over 2,100 types of edible insects worldwide, each offering unique flavors, from nutty and citrusy to cheesy and coconutty. Yoon’s mission is to introduce people to this “wonderful cornucopia of flavors, textures, and ideas” for cooking with edible insects.
A Global Perspective
While consuming insects is a common practice for around 2 billion people worldwide, it remains a challenging concept in most Western countries due to feelings of disgust. Yet, the need to feed an ever-growing global population in an environmentally sustainable way is a pressing concern. Land scarcity, overfished oceans, and the environmental impact of traditional livestock farming underscore the urgency of finding alternative protein sources.
Edible Insects: A Sustainable Solution
Insects, particularly crickets, have emerged as a sustainable protein source. They require significantly fewer resources than traditional livestock. Crickets, for example, need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and half the feed required by pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. This reduction in resource consumption can make a substantial difference in addressing environmental challenges.
Normalizing Edible Insects
Joseph Yoon is determined to change Western attitudes toward edible insects, with a particular focus on the United States. By “normalizing edible insects,” he aims to make them a familiar and accepted part of Western diets. This shift is essential to reducing the environmental impact of our food choices.
Insect Integration into Everyday Meals
For those willing to explore insect-based cuisine, Yoon suggests integrating insects into favorite dishes. It doesn’t require creating entirely new recipes. Instead, it can be as simple as adding crickets to dishes like fried rice or incorporating cricket powder into mac and cheese. The goal is to make edible insects an accessible and enjoyable part of daily meals.
The Path to Change
Joseph Yoon joins a growing community of insect innovators committed to altering perceptions about these tiny creatures. Early adopters, such as entrepreneur Patrick Crowley, introduced insect-protein products, like the Chapul Cricket energy bar, to the United States. Edible insect farms are also emerging, reflecting the industry’s growth.
A Responsibility for Sustainability
Yoon believes that every individual can contribute to sustainability. “Incorporating edible insects into your diet once a week can make a big difference,” he affirms. By embracing the concept of entomophagy and exploring the diverse world of edible insects, we can play a vital role in creating a more sustainable future.
Joseph Yoon’s journey from an art project to a culinary crusade is changing the way we view insect-based food. As more people embrace the idea, edible insects could become an integral part of the global food landscape, offering a delicious and sustainable solution to our growing dietary needs.