Create Your Clean Environment
If you’re recycling at your restaurant, you’re doing more than most. But what does it take to truly have an environmentally friendly kitchen—and can it affect your bottom line?
“Sustainability transcends cost at some point,” says Cleetus Friedman, executive chef at Chicago’s Theater on the Lake and Lakefront Restaurant. “It’s either part of your ethos or it’s not. To strive for a sustainable kitchen isn’t about the bottom line at first. It’s about doing the right thing for the environment, farmers and your guests.”
Being sustainable in your culinary practices means lessening your gasoline footprint by not paying trucks to drive across country or overseas, but rather working with purveyors more locally when possible for your proteins, produce and supplies. You can utilize whole animal butchering where you use all or most parts of chicken, cows, pigs, fish and more, whether that’s introducing different cuts of meat or using bones and scraps for stocks. And to save money, know exactly how much product you should be buying across all categories so you cut down on waste.
“All this impacts your bottom line,” Friedman states. Being sustainable isn’t just related to food purchasing and practices. You can think about non-perishable items, including candles, towels, napkins, cleaning supplies and more.
At Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, Md., chef/owner Spike Gjerde has different waste bins in the kitchen for limited landfill, compost, single-stream recycling, oyster shells, coffee grounds and cooking oil, which some companies will come swap out for clean oil and recycle the dirty oil for you. He uses low-impact cleaning supplies, and while it causes towels to look a little dingy, he’s OK with that. For him, it comes down to a personal preference, which is why he’s been successful in his environmental practices.
“My advice is to figure out why the hell it matters to you,” Gjerde says. “Don’t just do it. You have to connect it to something or you won’t follow through and keep up with it. You have to have something that’s meaningful to you. You can’t expect guests to care about something unless you care about it. That’s hard-worn experience for me.” And perhaps it can be for you, too.
“Don’t just do it. You have to connect it to something or you won’t follow through and keep up with it. You have to have something that’s meaningful to you. You can’t expect guests to care about something unless you care about it. That’s hard-worn experience for me.”
- Chef/Owner Spike Gjerde
Woodberry Kitchen Baltimore, MD.