One of the UK’s leading food innovators
Few chefs get into cooking with a desire to change the way we eat and think about food. One Brighton chef who is doing just this is Douglas McMaster of Silo. He has created a restaurant, and movement, that is looking at sustainability and ethical sourcing and taking it to new levels. With Silo he has taken what he learnt at some of the world’s top restaurants, such as Noma and St John, and created something entirely of his own.
The zero-waste concept is by no means unique, but to do it with such dedication and determination is. His efforts have not gone unnoticed, winning best ethical restaurant in the 2016 Observer food monthly awards being the highlight, and Douglas is hailed as one of the UK’s leading food innovators.
Silo is now in its third year and is continuing to evolve. The most recent addition is an ethical cocktail bar that has been created in collaboration with mixologist extraordinaire Ryan Chetiyawardana aka Mr Lyan. Douglas continues to push the boundaries of what is possible when you really put your mind to something, and so we thought we would delve into that mind and see what makes him tick.
1. Hi Doug, could you give us a brief background of how you started on this journey to create a truly zero waste restaurant?
I was lucky enough to work with an artist called Joost Bakker. Joost was famous for making waste materials into ART. This led him to create a whole building made from waste, which was then designed to serve food as a restaurant. This is when I met him and was asked to lead the food system, radically adapting to the mission of reducing waste. It became the obvious progression to attempt to ‘not’ have a bin… And so Silo was born.
2. Silo has now been operating for three years, are you happy with what you have achieved so far, and what do you have planned to continue on this journey?
Firstly I’m elated to have been going for so long, everyone said it would fail in 6 months. In the 3+ years, we have won awards such as Britain’s most Ethical restaurant, Britains top 100 restaurants, and Michelin recognition. Furthermore, the idea of Zero Waste has exploded globally in the last couple of years. I’d like to think we have had some small part to play in this.
3. What was it like to be named best ethical restaurant in 2016 by the Observer Food Awards and was this a defining moment in Silo’s development?
Yeah, this was the big one, Zero waste is just the beginning to Silo, we have championed so many other aspects of sustainability and operated as consciously as possible. It was a real honor…
4. You have recently joined up with Mr Lyan to create an ethical cocktail bar at Silo. How important is it for you to collaborate with likeminded individuals to create a zero-waste movement?
Hugely important! Ryan (Mr. Lyan) reached out to us in the early days just to casually say hello and that he appreciates our mission. That friendship grew into a series of collaborations and finally a cocktail bar inside Silo. I opened Silo as a chef and without the proper understanding of the drinks perspective. Its a relief to finally have that base covered!
5. What made you choose Brighton as the site for Silo?
Brighton is the perfect home for a zero-waste restaurant. Firstly ‘organic’ food goes hand in hand with zero waste, Brighton is the Organic powerhouse of the UK. Were surrounded by lush farmland, beautiful array of wild food and of course was by the sea! Personally speaking, I fell in love with Brighton and felt at home here.
6. Have you found much resistance to what you are doing with Silo, either from other chefs/food professionals or the public, or are people generally supportive?
There’s always a resistance to something different, it’s the irrational fear of the unknown. I made my peace with this long ago and appreciate that not everyone will want to support me, ethical or not.
7. How do you see the restaurant industry in 10 or 20 years’ time? Do you think that more people will be adopting a similar approach to Silo or at least taking on board some of the practices?
I’m certain of it, and it will take time. It’s a radical shift culturally speaking. There is a general belief that being ethical will compromise quality. This is definitely not the case when people realize this, the shift will happen with much more haste. Zero waste is extreme, I’d happily see a ‘low waste’ initiative take off, allowing support to those restaurants that wish to make a difference.See the listing for Silo Brighton