Step inside the first stop of our series throughout the venues that are doing their best to care for the planet and their local community: the Silo's experience
Chef: Douglas McMaster
For Silo, sustainability is: just giving nature as much as we take.
Main focus/projects on sustainability: Zero waste.
Awards / Recognitions in this area: Winner of Observer Food Monthly’s ‘Best Ethical Restaurant’ award in 2016.
By seeking a deeper relationship between his work in the kitchen and the environment that surrounds, chef Douglas MacMaster has become one of the most respected and admired voices in the restaurants' industry and has spearheaded a movement that recently took the food scene by storm.
If today we discuss issues of sustainability in restaurants, such as fighting food waste, the whole use of ingredients, direct trade, and many other environment-related aspects, much is due to McMaster. In 2014, he opened Silo, in Brighton, the very first zero-waste restaurant in the UK (and one of the first ones in the world), and shook cooks minds about their role in this concern.
“The main reason for Silo’s creation was actually a hedonistic pursuit”, MacMaster confesses. “I discovered a superior quality product through the pursuit of sustainability”, he says. But what started with a search for tastier ingredients to be used in his dishes became a mission in his cook's course, and led him to delve more and more into studying ways to become more aware of altering the raw consumption patterns in his business. “When you realize what we are doing to the planet it's hard to continue on the same path, you think: ‘I'm guilty and feel obligated to react’,” he points out.
"WASTE IS A LACK OF CREATIVITY"
And McMaster reacted: he made his mind that he had to reduce Silo's trash to zero, one of his most important motivations to date. For him, waste only exists because of our lack of creativity, since we have limited knowledge of what to do with certain parts of ingredients. This approach leads us to think that everything can be reused and nothing needs to be thrown away.
According to him, the main sustainable aspect of Silo that sets it apart from all other restaurants is not having a bin. “We have followed the three pillars of zero waste: direct trade, whole food preparation and urban composting”, he explains. The chef has been an advocate for ‘upcycling’ over recycling, which is reusing ingredients to create a product of higher quality than the original – in this case, bark, stalks, seeds and other parts of the food.
“Silo London will not recycle, because we will upcycle all our single-use items onsite, these materials will feed directly back into the system”, he explains about his new venue in London that is going to open in September. After 5 years in Brighton, MacMaster decided to relocate his project to The White Building in a space that will also count with an experimental brewery (CRATE), an affordable workspace, an extended bar and an event space.
A CLOSER RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LAND
Since the beginning of the sustainability-focused business, Silo has drawn inspiration from “pre-industrial food”, a concept that preaches the use of ingredients without any kind of industrial processing in the restaurant and that allows nothing to go to waste. This is related to the very philosophy of the restaurant: to seek a more natural food that has a closer relationship with the land and with the farmers.
“In the absence of natural food from healthy soil, we will lose the best produce. We say that there’s a chef shortage but the shortage of young organic farmers is a far greater drought”, McMaster points out.
The action at Silo is direct trade, by working directly with farmers they can pay them what they would have paid ‘the middle man’, making their business more sustainable. McMaster’s work and that of other chefs have inspired many other restaurants around the world to raise their flags in favor of sustainability. “Everybody wants to be famous. I’d rather see a pack of false prophets than nobody at all”, he says. “Sustainability is only going to become more topical when we turn the tide. If people jump on the bandwagon without understanding where it's going, they will either learn what it’s about and commit to the journey or they will just jump off”, he concludes. Hoping more can join te ride.