THE TRIALS, TRIBULATIONS, AND TRIUMPHS OF SUSTAINABLE SOURCING
I started cooking in Germany when I was 17. The way Germany approaches the economics of kitchen waste and recycling was way ahead of any other country. Every bit of waste was recycled or sorted in some way. A sustainable restaurant always made sense to me, but there was one turning point a few years back that solidified my mentality. A big volcanic eruption in Iceland disrupted the industry – ash-covered crops and caused some to fail, while planes were temporarily halted and importing ingredients became impossible. Up until then, we had been mindlessly importing things, purchasing ingredients from wholesale suppliers and a few local farmers. The eruption forced me to think about how fragile the food industry is, and I didn’t want to be in that desperate situation again, so we began our transition to entirely local ingredients.
I don’t think of this as a challenge; it’s my day-to-day work. All the staff here cares about the effort we’re making; we work smartly and efficiently and try to keep ourselves in check. Maintaining a sustainable restaurant using local ingredients isn’t an inconvenience – it’s just what we do. We have to adapt according to the seasons, the weather, and more, of course. Sometimes the weather will destroy a crop. Just this year, a supplier I’ve worked with for years rang me to say clover had invaded the pumpkin crop, they were no longer able to grow properly and now we have no pumpkins. When we buy into these local farmers and suppliers, we buy into the failures too. Other times, however, we have too many ingredients! Using only local products can sometimes pose difficulties, but I don’t consider it a burden. If I did, I wouldn’t be happy going to work. When we decide to support local farmers, it means supporting them from start to finish, throughout the year, the same way a restaurant needs consistent support from its customers.
At Loam, we follow our food’s journey from farm to plate. When you grow something from start to finish, there’s more value in it. So to other chefs wanting to make their kitchens more sustainable, my advice is to go all in – commit to it. Get to know your suppliers, learn how they work, and what challenges they face. Discover how you can work together. You can’t back every supplier – but support those you do work with. Build relationships, help your community, and you’ll see - it’s a quite rewarding way to work.