Portuguese chef Alexandre Silva of Loco, spoke at Food On The Edge in Galway in October 2018 about how he used waste reduction as an opportunity to innovate and give birth to a new creative force in his restaurant.
Loco, he only seven tables and 20 seats. It opens only for dinner, serving maybe 18 guests per night. To make a profit from such a small operation, everything has to be well thought out.
Starting eleven years ago, as a supper club in Silva’s home, serving ten guests a night, with a budget of €100 to buy the ingredients for the minimum of eight courses. It meant Silva learned he had to utilise all of what he bought.
It was a part-time gig for Silva, helping to pay his rent, until he realised it was possible to open a restaurant based on the same principle. It forced him to limit the extravagances of fine dining, deciding not to use, scallops, caviar, foie gras and truffles, firstly because they’re expensive products but also because they are not Portuguese.
So Silva decided to make a ‘parody’ course called ‘Scallops and Caviar’, with Portuguese ingredients – the scallop is a grilled cuttlefish on the half shell, with tomato water and seasoned with fresh garlic and chives, the caviar is a pickle made with mustard seeds.
A foraging season menu forced them to collect ingredients from nature and allowed them to become more self-sufficient and independent and with the cost savings, they were able to open a test kitchen for R&D. With this test kitchen, the first project was born, Zero Waste. To make it happen, they formed a team of three to think about it fulltime. Currently, they only waste 5% of what they purchase.
Silva uses daily 5 kilos of coffee grounds left over from making coffee, almost one tonne a year, to make misos, vinegars, chocolates etc. They see waste as a window of opportunity, and with the Atlantic Ocean on their doorstep the started a project called ‘Atlantic in Loco’. Fish usually has a waste percentage of 35%, monkfish is 80% so they aim to use all the fish, in different ways. They also started to make their own cheeses and have today,19 different types based on a customer’s request.
or Silva the trigger for this creativity was thinking about waste. From a need to reduce waste and cost, came a new energy, a new creative force at Loco.