Restaurant Embraces Waste-Free Trend

In the United States and around the world, dining out is a common luxury. Getting to savor creative dishes, discovering new foods and enjoying the atmosphere of a restaurant all together make for a memorable time.

 A downside to eating out: food waste. In the United States alone, about 11.4 million tons of food is wasted each year. That staggering number has opened the eyes of chefs and home cooks to practice zero-waste cooking. 

 This up-and-coming trend led three chefs in Helsinki, Finland to open up a restaurant dedicated to waste-free cooking. Restaurant Nolla, located in Helsinki’s Design District, combines Finnish cooking with the roots of the founders and chefs, Albert Franch Sunyer, Carlos Henriques, and Luka Balac. 

Restaurant Nolla prides itself on using fresh and well-kept ingredients. 

Each dish created is carefully crafted to maximize every piece of each ingredient. Parts of an item that can’t be utilized are composted. Restaurant guests witness this process as the composter is located in the main dining area, showcasing what the restaurant is all about. Although utilized, the composter is not used as a garbage can. Before each item is tossed away, it is weighed and analyzed using a waste management software. Data is collected, what was thrown out, who threw it away and why, and is used to help improve the restaurants practices. 

The Restaurant Nolla team. 

The composter sits in the dining room. 

Nolla is a restaurant without a trash bin. You cannot find any single use plastic here — no plastic packaging, no cling film, no vacuum bags, no foil,” says Sunyar, head chef of Restaurant Nolla, “Every detail from staff clothing and napkins to tableware has been thought of. Even the gift cards are made of compostable paper that has poppy seeds in them.”  

Food is handled in a special way to ensure that Restaurant Nolla remains a waste-free establishment. From the way the food is delivered right down to how it’s stored, no part of the process was disregarded. 

We have created a box system for vegetables, fish and meat with local producers,” says Sunyar. “The boxes travel back and forth to prevent any packaging waste. We are very strict with this rule. If something comes in a non-reusable packaging, it is sent back to the supplier. No exceptions. This is the only way to make sure that people understand our beliefs and respect our practices.”

All parts of rhubarb.

Beans and crudo. 

Ice cream, berries and honey. 

Sturgeon Pil Pil.

Food is fermented, pickled and dried to ensure ingredients are stored properly. The restaurant works with local producers who help them determine the best ingredients to use, based on what is growing during peak season. 

“We use local and organic products,” says Sunyar. “The ingredients and their natural characteristics are the backbone of our tasting menus, and therefore, it is imperative that the quality of the produce is very high. These products tend to be more expensive in general, however, by using seasonal products and utilizing every part of them, our way of operating is very much cost effective.” 

The chefs set out to show people that what they have accomplished is profitable and manageable. According to Sunyar, it’s not an easy process and creating the menu does take some time, but in the end he and the team stand by what they do, and they execute delicious and visibly beautiful dishes. 

 

“It is a common misconception that waste-free practices mean cooking from products that expire soon or that making sustainable choices means that the quality deteriorates,” says Sunyar. “We do not cook from waste nor do we produce waste. We want to show that creative and great food can go hand in hand with sustainability.” 

Tomatoes, raspberry and chili.

All photos and feature photo courtesy of Nikola Tomevski.

Photo courtesy Jack Oughton.

DUE TO THE EVER-CHANGING MOOD OF HIGH-END DINERS, HOTEL MANAGEMENT CONTINUES TO ADAPT TO NEW AND EXCITING CHALLENGES WITHIN THE FOOD AND BEVERAGE SECTOR OF LUXURY TRAVEL. IN A RECENT POST BY TEXAS MEETINGS + EVENTS, EXECUTIVE CHEFS AND MANAGEMENT MEMBERS DISCUSS TRENDS WITHIN THE WESTERN REGION OF US THAT ARE BECOMING UNIVERSALLY SEEN IN HOTELS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

LOCAL SOURCING & AUTHENTICITY

 

“Traveling is all about experiencing a new culture, and that includes fare from the region guests are visiting,” says James Morin, executive chef at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa located in San Antonio.

 

“We see a lot of guests enthralled by the culture of our Lone Star State, and they want to experience that unique Texas flavor in authentic cuisine.”

 

Showcasing the sourcing of ingredients and partnerships with local suppliers is a shift from previous priorities. The George R. Brown Convention Center also works to showcase its local partners by prominently featuring their branding in restaurant and café experiences, according to Chris Bupp, general manager of Levy, the exclusive food and beverage provider for the convention center.

Photo by Jack Oughton.

One example of this is the convention center’s relationship with local company Java Pura as a coffee vendor. “In telling people about it, it’s roasted down the street and it’s available across Texas,” Bupp says. “What a great story to tell, and consumers love hearing about it.”

Photo by Vishnuvardan.

HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES & DIETARY RESTRICTIONS

 

Chefs at multiple hotels and resorts spoke about an increased desire to develop menus with healthy options for attendees. For breakfast, often groups are looking for healthy options and “light action stations,” as they “want to see how the food is prepared,” says Christof Syré, executive chef at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas.

 

In regards to particular ingredients, grains such as quinoa, farro and sorghum have gained a new spotlight, as well as cold oatmeal and avocado toast topped with smoked salmon or a poached egg. Salmon has been a strong ingredient for Ruffy Sulaiman, executive chef at Hilton Americas-Houston.

“When we do a lot of tastings, each time we have salmon in the tasting, salmon always wins,” Sulaiman says. He credits the interest in salmon because it’s loaded with Omega 3 and appeals to most health-conscious eaters.

 

Coinciding healthy options are dietary restrictions, a complicated but rewarding challenge that the hotel industry finds itself constantly working toward accommodating, says Sulaiman. “It allows us to be as creative as possible to make sure that we take care of those folks.”

GOODBYE BUFFETS, HELLO POP-UP EXPERIENCES

 

Long buffet lines are going by the wayside, according to Sulaiman, as event planners are now sticking with smaller plates to continue the “less is more” trend. Sulaiman has developed different pop-up food experiences that highlight various cultures represented in Houston, including an Indian station with chicken Marsala and lamb shashlik and a pho station to represent Vietnamese culture.

 

To learn more from these inspired experts from the Lone Star state, visit Texas Meeting + Events’ post!

Photo courtesy Swastiverma.

Because there’s an endless wealth of kitchen, living room and bathroom interior design articles, we’re looking at one of a home’s most forgotten rooms — the dining room. As a gathering room often used, it’s odd that there’s little to no talk when it comes to dining room interior design and how to get it right in a contemporary residence.

 

And while redecorating a room is a fun challenge to take on, it can be a puzzle figuring out where to start and how to decorate effectively. To help inspire you to make the most of your dining room, Décor Aid is sharing easy-to-manage cues to consider to elevate the space. If your room doesn’t need a major overhaul, these are still tried and true, resourceful practices to take in to easily transform your dining room.

TRY A DIFFERENT LAYOUT

A dining room layout should offer a refreshing surprise — without being too daring. That said, do try your hand at thinking out of the box when it comes to exactly where you place your furnishings and how you can make them stand out objects.

 

USE WARM WOOD TONES

Wood tones can add a polished, warm vibe to a dining room of any size, even for small dining room decorating ideas. You don’t need to worry too much about matching wood tones as subtle nuances between flooring and furnishings allow the eye to travel.

 

Photo courtesy of Millarc

Blending warm wood tones, the dining area at 15 Jay St — located within the Tribeca West Historic District and designed by the Meshberg Group — also offers a unique, open plan layout.

Photo courtesy of Quada

BE CREATIVE WITH TABLETOP DECOR

Easy to source and decorate with, consider different approaches for the items that live on your dining room table and/or console daily and move them around, rotate them, or add new items with little to no effort.

This dining table — located within Harford Manor, a 40-acre estate near Windsor, Berkshire — displays beautiful, elegant tabletop decor

BRING IN ART

Art can bring a sense of relaxed elegance into a space. Note how a vibrant painting gives the room depth and a sense of drama with just one piece.

Photo courtesy of Quada

Photo courtesy of VDP

CREATE AN INTIMATE ATMOSPHERE

The more relaxing and comforting your dining room interior design is, the more you’ll want to entertain in it. Think a small grouping of furnishings that boast plush surfaces, relaxing hues, and what would make you feel at ease in an intimate setting.

This one-of-a-kind dining room — located within the Penthouse at Nine on the Hudson — was designed to bring people closer together with an intimate, less traditional arrangement.

GO OLD SCHOOL

As memories and culinary experiences are deeply linked, do transport your guests to moments from your past. Though we aren’t recommending a completely traditional overhaul, there’s comfort to be found in the familiar, so consider injecting your dining room interior design with elements that hint to the past whether through vintage quirk or a grand gesture.

 Designed by Room Resolutions, this dining room features antique elements — including the traditional chandelier and detailed crown molding. 

Photo by Shay Velich

For a complete list of Decor Aids dining room design tips, head to www.decoraid.com

Constantly shaking up the St. Louis dining scene is chef Gerard Craft, whose collection of restaurants features global influences and Missouri pride.

By Roger Grody

It may lack the culinary notoriety of San Francisco, New Orleans or the Big Apple, but St. Louis has quietly been developing a serious food scene. In addition to benefitting from a large Italian-American community and a geographic flirtation with the South, talented young chefs from around the country are arriving. Largely responsible for St. Louis’ dining renaissance is chef and prolific restaurateur Gerard Craft.

Craft, who grew up in Washington, D.C., opened his first restaurant in St. Louis knowing very little about the city except that it offered affordable space for a struggling 25-year-old chef. That restaurant, Niche, ignited the local dining scene and his Niche Food Group now operates five restaurants in the Gateway City.

“I still wasn’t that interested in food, but fell in love with the kitchen’s energy, comradery and instant gratification. “I loved the idea that you could produce something, serve it and see the impact it has on people, then clean up and move on to the next day,” recalls the young cook. After spending some time in France, even enrolling in a work-study program at the Ritz in Paris, Craft was feeling confident enough to talk his way into a line cook position at Park City’s well-respected Bistro Toujours.

“It was a disaster,” reports Craft, explaining, “The chef sat me down and told me I had no skills and that I could either leave or work as a prep cook in the basement.” Now recognizing this as a turning point in his career, Craft says, “Being demoted was the best thing that ever happened to me. After I got some hands-on experience down in the basement, I was able to work my way through every station on the line.” After an apprenticeship at the upscale Ryland Inn in New Jersey, Craft earned a sous chef position at Chateau Marmont, a celebrity haunt on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip.

Hearing that prominent chef Larry Forgione and some other talented chefs had opened restaurants in St. Louis, Craft flew there to look at an old wine bar for a potential restaurant of his own. “It had boarded-up windows, a dirt floor and no electricity,” recalls Craft, who took possession of the space in February 2005 and reopened it as Niche later that year.

Craft had little interest in cooking as a young boy, recalling, “My family was really into food, but I was probably the pickiest eater in the world.” Despite that self-characterization, Craft’s most meaningful food memories revolved around the cooking of his Brazilian nanny. “She was like a second mom to me, and I grew up eating simple, rustic Brazilian food like black beans and feijoada,” says Craft, who adds, “She had such a touch with food and was able to make anything taste great.” He honored that influential nanny by offering contemporary versions of pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) and brigadeiro (confection) at Niche. “Having her visit the restaurant before she died was a big moment for me,” says Craft.

As a kid, Craft’s heroes were not Wolfgang Puck or Emeril Lagasse but Russell Simmons and Richard Branson, as the fledgling entrepreneur sold paintballs to classmates in fifth grade, a clothing line in high school. He attended Westminster College in Salt Lake City, a choice driven by his passion for snowboarding, but dropped out after two years. To supplement his income as a snowboard photographer, Craft began washing dishes and cooking at a local diner.

Niche was originally conceived as an unpretentious contemporary American restaurant, but an older clientele with fine dining expectations forced Craft to reinvent it as more of a special occasion restaurant. The servers, originally wearing tee-shirts, switched to collared shirts and pressed aprons, while the china was upgraded, explains Craft, who admits, “That slippery slope into fine dining pushed me to become a more creative and ambitious chef.”

Craft subsequently opened Brasserie by Niche, an authentic French bistro that reflects his love of Paris, Porano for quick-service Italian cooking, Pastaria for organic pastas, and mixology-driven Taste. While he acknowledges St. Louis lacks the wealth of dining found in its rival Midwestern city of Chicago, he contends, “There may not be a chic modern restaurant on every block, but the ones that succeed here are special.” In the pipeline for Craft is Pastaria Nashville, his first venture in neighboring Tennessee.

The James Beard Award-winning chef is perhaps the greatest single ambassador for Missouri-sourced ingredients. At the height of Craft’s commitment to local foods, 97 percent of the ingredients on Niche’s menu were produced in the Show Me State, including the onions going into stock for sauces, caviar from local rivers and even wine from Missouri vineyards. “It definitely generated a sense of pride in home-raised Missouri products,” says Craft. Insisting Missouri remains an unpretentious, approachable place, he suggests, “The hot summers and cold winters produce real people, and the vegetables are the same way, more humble and less precious.” Because of the movement that Craft spearheaded, there are now farmers and ranchers offering to grow vegetables or raise animals specifically for the needs of local chefs.

Craft shuttered Niche last year after a decade-long run, citing the intensity of maintaining standards at the city’s top-rated restaurant. “The competition begins to wear on you, and you begin to forget why you decided to cook in the first place,” says the chef, who converted the space into Sardella, a less expensive restaurant that celebrates his passion for Italian cooking.

A signature dish at Sardella is charred butternut squash with roasted garlic custard, Calabrian chile vinaigrette and basil that Craft describes as having bright flavors and a spicy, almost Thai-like quality even though all of the ingredients are Italian. “It’s an Italian dish that you’d never find in Italy,” quips the chef.

Gerard Craft and St. Louis have been good for one another, with the 37-year-old chef offering a diversity of local restaurants that may be the product of global influences but are true to their Missouri heritage. 

 

Niche Food Group

Photos courtesy of Greg Rannells

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