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The World's Zero Waste Restaurant

This article will tell you more about the concept behind Silo and the radical mindset of its owner & chef Douglas McMaster as well as some tips on how to shift from an industrialism-oriented mindset to a Silo mindset!

written by Christina Andersen on 02/23

Introduction

 

“Waste is something we created, it’s a symptom of our flawed system”,  writes Douglas, Chef & owner at Silo in his Zero Waste Blueprint book. Waste is an anomaly, like a virus upon Earth. Silo does not have a bin. How can their system function, and what makes it different to an industrial food system?

 

Introducing the mind behind the Silo System: 

Before Douglas McMaster turned 21 years old, he thought he was inexperienced, had no self confidence and felt like a misfit, as he was told so by the other kids and teachers. But one day, he received an email to participate in a national cooking competition, not just any: the BBC Young Chef of the Year. He ended up winning the competition and was named Britain’s best young chef. After having felt hopeless during a long period of time, the taste of glory was finally there. His early career brought him to Australia, where he had the chance to work closely with Joost Bakker, a zero-waste activist who has a core mission: to inspire us all to live a zero-waste life. In 2014, at the age of 26, Douglas came back to the UK and opened Silo in Brighton, which then moved to London. After the pandemic, he also launched a Zero Waste Cooking School  YouTube Channel with content that ranges from home recipes to regenerative farming. 

 

“Farmers are good, middlemen are not.

Middleman means processing & packaging;

Farmers means fresh, flavourful, fundamental food.”

The Zero Waste Blue Print - A Food System For the Future, Douglas McMaster

 

As Douglas states in his must read book, the first human anomaly is waste. The second - is our imagination. At the end of the day, we are the only animals to have discovered fire, which led us to learn how to cook and be creative with food.
 

We are our own enemy; in the sense that we are part of nature, however the anthropocene places humankind above nature and leads us to think very little about the consequences of our actions. How can we, in today’s society, achieve a regenerative food system?

Recycling is industrialism’s best-case scenario yet it is not a sustainable nor regenerative solution. Data wise, about 30% of food, 80% of plastic and 40% of glass goes to landfill (or is incinerated). Recycling itself creates a new form of waste, whether it’s materials, time, energy, space or money. 


On the other hand, there is Silo’s Zero Waste Food System, which works with natural materials only. Douglas’ philosophy goes beyond recycling, in fact he aims to take ownership of the materials that enter the system. The choice of those products is fundamental, whether you look at its shelf life or whether it can be reborn into something new. 

 

The difference between recycling and cradle to cradle is simple:

  • Recycling will turn something back into the same thing

  • Cradle to cradle is to turn something into a new, ideally better thing, that can then feed back into the system (nature to nature, see picture below).

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  1. An Industrial Food System, p.48 of The Zero Waste Blueprint

  2. A Silo Food System, p.49 of The Zero Waste Blueprint

How could one achieve such a radical change and embrace a Zero Waste Blueprint approach? Douglas gives us some insightful tips: 
 

  • Let’s add beauty, make regeneration sexy, by turning unappetizing into delicious for instance. As McMaster mentions, we need “to let heal, to reconfigure, to restore order to the earth.. Live and let live”. 

  • “Breed Intuition”. This is the opposite of industrial thinking. Instinct has always been the natural way of thinking. If you learn to adapt, you can easily find solutions to the unpredictable nature of real food.

  • “People don’t change the world, ideas do” , we need creative thinkers in order to breakthrough ecological redemption. Let’s also not forget that creativity is compatible with intuition!

  • There is no such thing as perfection. Keep your standards lower, and believe that being brilliant is enough.

  • Human failure is inescapable. Change your mindset & see failure as an opportunity and keep the positive vibes, negative cynicism can only harm. 

  • Don’t forget that a natural system cannot create any waste, only an industrial one can.

 

Many people were convinced that Silo would not succeed. But taking a big leap of faith, using a mix of pre-industrialism & modern strategies has created the perfect recipe for a restaurant without a bin. McMasters' mindset was to simply look at the whole tree (rather than look at the final product only), starting with the roots & following it all the way to the bright shiny leaves. Let’s hope more restaurants will get inspired by Chef Douglas and his amazing philosophy at Silo!

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