SPOTLIGHT: DOUG MCMASTER ON SILO

As Extinction Rebellion reminded us last month; our house is on fire. Whilst protesters marched, we caught up with Doug McMaster the Hackney based chef quietly leading his own rebellion.

Silo is the world’s first zero waste restaurant – complete with open fire kitchen, light fittings made from ground wine bottles and critically; no bin. McMaster is about to set a precedent that will change kitchen consumption forever, sound mad? This man turned Japanese Knotweed into a martini.


How did this all start?

Having worked in many restaurants (Fat Duck, St John, Noma to name a few) I was frustrated by the amount of food being wasted in the name of fine dining. It started with a crazy zero-waste concept pop-up in Sydney called Wasted, and it’s grown from there! We launched Silo Brighton and then decided to step up this year and create Silo London. The motivation is to create a fully sustainable eco-system within the restaurant that breeds creativity and eliminates the chance for waste.

Silo is zero waste, but does not shy away from meat, as other sustainable restaurants have, was that important?

There is no direct link between veganism and zero waste. Zero waste is a food system in itself, that integrates with nature, whereas veganism is a dietary preference within a food system.

We focus on meat that may be rejected or wasted for example our beef is 60 day aged Fresian dairy cows, that otherwise wouldn’t be used for human consumption. We also use fish such as cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, octopus) that are in abundance in the ocean due to a decline in their predators.

The space is totally awe inspiring, what drove the design process?

I live in Hackney and have always been a fan of CRATE brewery, so opening in their building felt like the perfect partnership. The design process was lead by our zero waste principals in every detail. Every aspect of the space rejects waste; no paper menus, no single use materials, even no bins!

I challenged friends and local artisans to build plates from plastic bags and tables from industrial floor tiles, so it's been a labour of love for so many of us. It’s been pretty humbling to see small businesses and artisans rising to these challenges and the results are a space that preaches our principals as much the menu.

What inspired the move from Brighton to London and what will be different about the spaces?

It’s not about differently; but more about raising the bar. Silo London will follow the same concepts as in Brighton, but on a larger scale, with furniture made from post-industrial materials, and an open kitchen with a burning fire. The idea is that the open space will be an innovative evolution of Silo Brighton.

What 2 or 3 simple steps could every restaurateur take to drive more sustainable operations?

I think it boils down to our attitude to waste. If we treat it as a creative challenge then suddenly we can achieve so much more. Compost, is awesome and such a simple step. And a focus on not creating excess waste of your own. Simple steps like delivering food in reusable vessels make a big difference.