In the luxury world, it’s not often that the buzzword du jour is ‘waste’. But when it comes to fine dining, going zero waste is the movement of the moment. Last month’s wastED pop-up at Selfridges saw a host of household names cooking up a storm from ‘waste’ food products, while Patrón’s latest Secret Dining Society event served up a menu of waste food specials to a discerning audience. Now, Skye Gyngell is getting involved with her new initiative, TABLE. But is the zero waste food trend here to stay? Or does true fine dining demand ecological compromise?
We spoke to a pioneer of the zero waste industry and founder of Silo (a waste free fine dining restaurant in Brighton) Douglas McMaster about the new philosophy of waste not, want not.
Tell us a little about the zero waste industry and movement in food
I think Zero waste is a so popular because it’s so simple. In this very complicated wasteful world, something so pure is naturally attractive. The food industry in the last 50 years has become incredibly wasteful mainly due to industrialised food systems creating so much convenience and choice.
Furthermore, the culture that this food system has allowed to breed is one with unnatural expectations and an unhealthy appetite for perfection. That’s not to mention the packaging waste, which is, of course, a phenomenal strain on the environment, our economy and resources.
My challenge at my zero waste restaurant ‘Silo’ in Brighton is to make consistently brilliant food without generating any waste.
Is there any way to know which restaurants and businesses are practising zero or limited waste policies?
Unfortunately not. I’d love to create a ‘Zero waste certification’ to help guide restaurants on maximising their resources to minimise their waste.
Why do you think it’s taken this long for people to start paying attention to these issues and needs? Why now?
This food industrialisation I refer to is only really taken hold in the last 50 years, mostly giving us what we want. The trouble is that we are only just starting to understand the downsides to this. Processed food is making us ill, and the environment is also ill because of the way we’re processing the food.
How can we have more of a ‘zero waste’ attitude in our own lives?
Start by looking at every purchase as a vote. If you buy fast food you are voting for fast food to exist, if you buy organic food you are voting for an organic future, if you buy something with no packaging you are voting for zero waste. It’s important to never underestimate these small actions.
How can this tie into other areas of life?
Zero waste works hand in hand with Minimalism and other lifestyle movements which can bring great relief on life’s anxious demands. Practically speaking it will save you money, it’s likely to make you healthier because most zero waste purchases are whole, organic and bring back fundamental life trends (such as cooking) which are philosophically crucial to our existence.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
It is important to me to work with brands taking zero waste and sustainability seriously. I recently collaborated with Patrón Tequila for their Patrón Secret Dining Society event alongside innovative mixologist Iain Griffiths of Mr Lyan Ltd. It was great to present a zero waste menu perfectly paired with a set of Iain’s adventurous cocktails at the event. It was the perfect opportunity to align myself with a fellow brand taking sustainability seriously, in the knowledge that the production processes Patrón use in Jalisco Mexico to make their tequila are sustainable. For example, instead of disposing of the unused hand-harvested agave in the production process as waste, Patrón takes it and mixes it with the remaining concentrated stillage to create organic compost for growing crops on the Hacienda’s grounds and shares it with the local community to fertilise the surrounding agave fields.
Consider all food as a living thing, if you eat dead denatured processed food packed with things unnaturally our bodies will suffer, whereas if we eat food that’s alive, we will prosper.
Find out more about Douglas & Silo at www.silobrighton.com.
What’s next for the zero waste movement?
Another great zero waste project for 2017 is a partnership between ‘Food for Soul’ and The Felix Project. Refettorio Felix will open on 5 June to provide lunch from Monday to Friday for the homeless and other vulnerable groups from surplus produce supplied by The Felix Project. The aim is to serve more than 2,000 meals using five tonnes of recovered food. Internationally renowned chefs confirmed to take part in the project so far include: Alain Ducasse (along with Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester executive chef Jean-Philippe Blondet), Alberto Crisci (from The Clink Charity), Angela Hartnett, Anna Hansen, Antonio Favuzzi, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Brett Graham, Bruno Loubet, Clare Smyth, Claude Bosi, Damian Clisby, Daniel Boulud, Douglas McMaster, Enrico and Roberto Cerea, Francesco Mazzei, Giorgio Locatelli, Isaac McHale, James Lowe, Jason Atherton, Jess Murphy, Jonny Lake (Executive Head Chef The Fat Duck), Leandro Carreira, Lee Tiernan, Margot Henderson, Michel Roux Jr., Monica Galetti, Nuno Mendes (chef of Chiltern Firehouse), Oliver Peyton, Sat Bains, Roberto Ortiz, (head chef of Lima) and Robbin Holmgren (head chef of Fifteen).
Meanwhile, Skye Gyngell has been building to the launch of her initiative, TABLE, the community eating house at Somerset House tackling food waste for a week starting 17 May–21 May. For the event, Gyngell has brought in a host of interesting individuals to help make the event happen, from the interior designer Sophie Ashby to volunteer students from The Cordon Bleu.
Carole Bamford, the patron of TABLE says;
‘I am delighted to be supporting Skye Gyngell’s brilliant new initiative, TABLE, which shares many of my thoughts and passions for tackling food waste and sustainable growing, farming and eating. Personally, I have always believed in using quality and seasonal ingredients when it comes to the way we eat, as well as respecting the true cost to our planet whilst producing food. Bringing people together from many different backgrounds to appreciate simply good food at TABLE will continue to highlight this important message and no doubt be a very enjoyable occasion too.’
The 3-course “Scratch Menu” served at TABLE will be priced at the economical price of £20 per person for three courses. Spring’s chosen charity Foodcycle, who service those who are hungry and lonely by serving lunch and dinner every day in towns and cities across the country, will benefit from a donation from TABLE.