KA: Why is sustainable cooking so important to you?
AH: Sustainability has been a fundamental part of my group for such a long time I think it’s actually made me a better chef. Setting myself the challenge to use as much of an ingredient as possible has pushed me to use a wide range of techniques and has, without a doubt, extended my flavour palate. The methodology of minimising waste has given rise to some of my favourite dishes; I can even attribute a few of my signatures to this. It’s become fundamental to my cooking and ties all of my restaurants together.
Aside from the impact it’s had on my development as a chef, sustainable cooking is critical to the future of the planet. The food we eat and the waste this produces makes a considerable impact on the environment, and the way the majority of the industry is operating at the moment cannot be sustained. If we don’t make the changes we should have been making twenty years ago, we’re risking not having a restaurant industry left to change which would be devastating. I care about sustainable cooking because I care about the future of the planet; the two go hand in hand. From a business perspective, it also makes the most financial sense – why spend money on an ingredient and not use all of it?
What steps do you take on a daily basis in the kitchen to eliminate waste?
We try to make sure we’re using as much of our ingredients as possible, minimising how much we waste. This means being a bit more thoughtful and considerate when we design our menus and dishes. Our dish All the pumpkin at The Frog Hoxton uses pretty much the entire vegetable, from the flesh and skins down to the seeds which we use to make a miso. We also keep a symbiotic relationship between our sites, which gives a bit more flexibility with how we reduce our waste. Especially between bars and restaurants, where we can use leftover ingredients to garnish zero-waste cocktails – this link between our sites is the most effective way we’ve reduced waste from our kitchens.
What is the most exciting dish you’ve made utilising by-products and/or offcuts?
My absolute favourite so far is a toss-up between the Reformed doughnut pudding, kind of like a bread pudding, or the Cod's roe croissants from my restaurant pop-up, Ugly Butterfly. The croissants were the ones that weren't sold at breakfast from just down the road at Adam Handling Chelsea. The buttery, flakiness of pastry paired really well with the smooth, tangy cod's roe - a less widely used and often wasted ingredient which, in my opinion, is absolutely delicious.
How do you see sustainable cooking evolving over the next couple of years? How are you going to participate?
I think (and hope!) sustainable cooking is only going to gain more momentum over the next few years. Generally speaking, it’s the younger generation who care the most about the environment – they’re the ones creating the demand for more eco-conscious restaurants and experiences. I plan to carry on edging towards my restaurant group’s goal to be entirely zero-waste and sustainable, whilst educating the general public with how to do the same. That’s a crucial part of the movement, spreading education and awareness.
Does your commitment to eco-mindedness extend beyond food and into your wine lists and decor of your current (and upcoming) restaurants?
Luckily, I have an amazing team that share the same values as I do. They are equally dedicated to reducing our environmental impact, so we’re putting measures in place big and small to be as eco-conscious as we can be. It’s worked well when we’ve been decorating our restaurants - at Ugly Butterfly, we worked with The Wood Store and Junkey Munkey to fit out the furniture and lighting. They both upcycle materials like wood and glass bottles into really cool, unique furniture. We even stopped stocking glass bottled beer at my bar, Eve, since we found out glass is harder to recycle than cans – it’s the smallest details which you think don’t matter which, when combined, make a huge impact.
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