Meet the cou­ple be­hind the no-waste food move­ment tak­ing over Dubai

CEO Middle East - - CON­TENTS -


Win a restau­rant and or­der­ing ex­ces­sively from the menu and end­ing up leav­ing large quan­ti­ties un­touched as you force down an­other mouth­ful. My mother would say: “Your eyes are big­ger than your belly.” Less po­lite peo­ple would call it sheer greed.

But what hap­pens if the waiter or waitress comes back after you’d or­dered and asks you to re­con­sider on ac­count of the po­ten­tial waste?

That’s ex­actly what hap­pens at Dubai restau­rant Lowe, run by Aus­tralian Kate Chris­tou and New Zealan­der Jesse Blake. The con­tem­po­rary restau­rant show­cases sea­sonal pro­duce cooked nat­u­rally by fire, with a strong em­pha­sis on sus­tain­abil­ity and, lit­tle to no food waste.

Chris­tou says: “We’re evolv­ing so much as the process is go­ing along. We’ve al­ways been very con­scious of waste and we don’t do buf­fets or any­thing like that, we’re against it.

“Even when it came to train­ing the team, most waiters are told to sell, sell, sell. Whereas I tell them only to sell to the cus­tomer what they can eat. So even when the dock­ets come to the kitchen, if we think it’s too much food, we tell them to go back and talk to the cus­tomers and tell them to or­der less.”

It is es­ti­mated that the UAE wastes AED13 bil­lion of food each year, gen­er­at­ing be­tween 1.9kg to 2.5kg of waste per per­son each day – more than dou­ble the amount pro­duced in Europe and North Amer­ica.

Chris­tou and Blake are look­ing to ad­dress that, one meal at a time.

As well as the all-day din­ing, share-style menu, which com­bines tra­di­tional tech­niques and unique flavours, the duo have also launched the ‘Waste not’ con­cept, where all waste is stored and trans­formed into weird and won­der­ful dishes as part of a nine-course gas­tro­nomic ad­ven­ture.

Ba­sic in­gre­di­ents can in­clude all man­ner of meat and fish bones, fish heads, chicken spines, stale bread and rice crack­ers ground up to make fresh pasta, and aged cheese, as well as stones from plums, cauliflowe­r stems and potato skins, all turned into del­i­ca­cies more akin to a five-star restau­rant than a rub­bish tip.

Blake ex­plains: “As the amount of waste that we have in the restau­rant is very low, we need time to save. We have a sec­tion in the cool room where the chefs are very aware of the things that are not be­ing used on the menu. It gets put on this sec­tion with is es­sen­tially a quar­ter of the cool room, and we process it weekly.

“Things like all the trim­mings, all the beef bones, all the fish bones, will get made into stocks so we can re­duce them down and use them later.

“By the time the event comes we will have a list of in­gre­di­ents that we will have on a piece of pa­per, we’ll look and see that we’ve got fish

stock, we’ve got bones and we’ll start to cre­ate a menu from there.”

Dishes in­clude: Pavlova with honey roasted plums and nec­tarines, black­cur­rant water­melon pickle; plum ker­nel ice cream with can­died black­cur­rants and toasted oats; rye spaghetti with cheese rind sauce, smoked sausage and wilted roca leaves; and roasted chicken, parsnip, pump­kin and brus­sel sprouts, mush­room jus.

It’s all a par­tic­u­lar labour of love for

Blake, whose tal­ent for for­ag­ing for food was har­vested from a very young age.

He says: “My back­ground def­i­nitely plays a huge part in the ‘waste not’. My fam­ily didn’t have a lot of money, didn’t have a lot of food. Food wasn’t scarce but we were able to use ev­ery­thing. We would go to the beach to fish, make fish head soup which is quite com­mon in New Zealand, which my mum would con­stantly make. We did bone broths, so I think that back­ground has played a big part in what we do for the ‘waste not’ din­ners.”

The ‘waste not’ con­cept has also been in­tro­duced into the main restau­rant.

“Orig­i­nally it was sep­a­rate. It was a to­tally off-topic con­cept. It was just a thing that we did once a month,” says Blake.

“Usu­ally a spin off from our nor­mal events, would come a ‘waste not’ event, so we would ob­vi­ously have the po­ten­tial to utilise any­thing that’s left over.

“But now we’re find­ing that it’s not nec­es­sary to throw half the stuff we were throw­ing away, a lot of those dishes or some of the com­po­nents of those dishes are be­ing used in the main restau­rant.”

Next on the menu for Chris­tou and

Blake is to make the pop­u­lar restau­rant 100 per­cent zero waste.

He says: “We still have plans to open a kitchen gar­den, which is very com­mon in Aus­tralia. Ev­ery re­fined kitchen will have kind of kitchen gar­den out­side or down the road. That is one way we thought we could re­ally utilise the waste in the kitchen gar­den be­cause you’ve got turnip tops which don’t typ­i­cally get used, car­rot tops, leaves from cab­bages. We thought that would be a great con­cept for the fu­ture when it comes, but them we re­alised we had so much waste al­ready so we started the con­cept.

“Even­tu­ally when we’re able to turn 100 per­cent of our waste into com­post, that’s when we can la­bel our­selves as a 100 per­cent zero waste restau­rant. That’s the plan, but we need the gar­den as the next step.”

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