As his book ‘Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint’ is released, described by Christian F. Puglisi as the inspiration to “reconsider your footprint, your waste and your cooking”, we spoke to the Silo founder and head chef about the zero-waste movement
You claim that “zero waste is the future of food.” Can you expand on what led you to draw that conclusion?
Waste is like climate change, it’s the result of an attempt to manipulate nature for our own prosperity. The planet has limited resources and we are disposing these resources so quickly we can’t yet see the implications of our negligence. There will come a time when the implications of such careless waste will be unavoidable; when that time comes, wasting precious resources will become more of a criminal act. Zero waste is the most rational way to live on this planet, without it we won’t have a planet, at least not one worth living on.
You’re considered a trailblazer in the zero-waste movement, what has been the greatest change you’ve seen in the industry and how did you manage criticism when you started?
Seven years ago, waste wasn’t a popular subject. Well at least, it’s not an attractive subject. I saw an opportunity to make a system that didn’t generate waste. My vision was for this system to be beautiful… That for me is what would be the game changer.
The movement is very much in its infancy, and I believe that one day it will become a mainstream ideology.
The criticism was a very challenging dynamic, especially when I was really trying to do a good thing. One day, I realised I was being criticised not for my ideas, but for doing something different. It takes time for people to change, especially when the change is less convenient and when the change is indignant.
You remind the audience to “be sensitive to the fate of compost” but for so many, compost is the final resting place for food. How have you navigated the attitudes around cooking with what many consider to be ‘waste’?
In a perfect world every material would fall back into the cycle of nature, in what is essentially a closed loop system. Everything in nature feeds back into the system, excluding our human interferences (plastic, pollution etc.). This circular thinking isn’t popular due to the behaviour of industrialism. There’s a shift happening which will accommodate this perspective and we will have a very different relationship to the word ‘waste’. Instead of waste being a redundant, inanimate object it will be viewed as food. Food for the soil, or for the life of the next material. All I can do is keep having these conversations, positively highlighting the benefits.
There can be quite a lot of restrictions and food safety parameters that need to be followed in food service. What has your experience been in establishing a restaurant that goes against these regulations?
Lots of common sense, the ‘rule book’ was written fearfully…
You speak briefly on vegan cooking and how Silo will “champion a new wave of vegan food…with quality as a priority.” Can you explain the relationship between zero waste and veganism?
There’s no direct link between veganism and zero waste. Zero waste is a food system, integration with nature. Veganism is a dietary preference within a food system.
I don’t believe that veganism is the ultimate human diet, but I respect that it exists because of something truly awful. Furthermore, I love cooking plants. When observing vegan food culture it can sometimes seem a bit perverse mimicking cheese and meat. Why not let plants be plants?
As I type I realise who I’m typing this to – Relæ is the restaurant that best represents unlocking the potential of plants.