WASTE NOT, WANT NOT
Meet the couple behind the no-waste food movement taking over Dubai
E’RE ALL GUILTY OF IT. SITTING DOWN
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.”