'Waste is a human thing, we designed it into this world and I believe we can design it out again'
By Mónica R. Goya
Douglas McMaster is the young chef behind zero waste restaurant Silo. Located in Brighton (England), and operating since 2014, Silo’s mission is to fight food waste at every level, from its kitchen to its furniture. Furthermore, they have mastered the art of transforming whole foods into delicious meals on site. They ferment drinks, mill their own flour to make bread, churn their own butter and when it comes to animals, they follow St John’s nose-to-tail philosophy.
Nothing goes to waste at Silo, not even food’s scraps and trimmings, which go into their special compost machine becoming compost used to grow food.
In this interview, McMaster discusses his beginnings at Silo, the challenges of running a zero waste restaurant and his plans for the future.
39 Upper Gardner Street
Brighton, BN1 4AN
T. 01273 674 259
What is the most challenging of running a zero waste restaurant?
Our limitations… We only have access to whole foods coming directly from the source. Not only is it limiting but it chances the whole model of a restaurant.
Why is food waste so important for you?
It’s not about the importance but that it is unnecessary. Waste is a human thing, we designed it into this world and I believe we can design it out again.
How did you first promote Silo Brighton?
The buzz of zero waste made enough of a splash to promote Silo.
Will you move the restaurant to London?
Silo Brighton is going nowhere! We’ve just refurbished the restaurant building in a cocktail bar, we had a record few months and we a sensational team of people doing wonderful work.
How often do you change Silo’s menu? Are there some dishes you would like to do but you can’t because it wouldn’t be ‘zero waste’?
The menu tweaks every day, there’s no 2 ingredients that are the same. This raises all kinds of challenges with recipes and consistency. There are some ingredients which are just two time consuming for our already laborious regime, crab is an example.
Do you also follow a ‘zero waste policy’ at home? What could people do at home to tackle food waste?
I try to… though I always get samples of things (almost always in single use plastic) which I take home. So I’m certainly less zero waste than Silo. Meal planning is a great way to avoid waste. Buying in bulk then prepping in bulk. Freezing down big batches of sauce, soup, stock etc.
Restaurants always try to avoid throwing away food, not only for the environmental costs but also because food is money. How does Silo go a step forward?
We have to maximise the resources for financial reasons because we spend much more on staff costs. Our food costs are very low because we buy in bulk and champion every morsel.
Is there any season that it’s best to achieve zero waste at the restaurant?
That’s s good question… fresh produce is the easiest to receive ‘unpackaged’.
The hungry gap is the period before spring where very little grows. This is more challenging because we are so reliant on these farms.
Can you tell that some clients are aware of food waste since they have been visiting your restaurant?
Not really, but it’s a conversation that I can see has become a trend and hopefully will be more of a consideration to people.
What are the principles you followed to buy furniture, cutlery, etc for Silo?
At first it was a necessity to upcycle waste materials as we couldn’t afford furniture. Now it’s become a real passion to tap into ‘beautiful waste’ and making glorious furniture and fittings. Like our new velvet cocktail couch.
What’s next for you and Silo?
Me and my business partner David have always talked about London. We’re pretty happy with the way Silo is running at the moment. A second would be nice but in the future when the time is right.