I had no expectations of what I might find or learn I was fascinated by and wanted to understand the background to the inspiration that led to Silo and how he got to where he is now. He’s only 20 something so I guessed it couldn’t be that long a story right? How wrong I was and what an amazing passion-filled global story it is.
Quiet, gentle and unassuming, Douglas cut his culinary teeth aged 16 working in fine dining in the North of England. Learning his trade the hard way from the ground up in a 2 starred Michelin Restaurant. Working long hours but quietly absorbing the delicacy finesse and flavour combinations a teenage education afforded him….
Then London beckoned via a former colleague and Douglas joined his mate Billy at breakthrough restaurant St Johns in Smithfield Market. St Johns was one of the first places to advocate the ‘top to toe’ vision of using the entire animal. Nothing to be thrown away and all to turned into something delicious. Quite by chance (six degrees of separation!) I used to work 2 doors away from St Johns and I remember distinctly when it opened! It quickly became our lunchtime haunt and I can confirm that the food was always, but always fabulous. Plus it looked so different when you walked in Architecturally hewn into old flour loading bay building there were no frills and bells just long rough wooden tables great food and intelligent staff. What’s’ not to like!
For Douglas, embracing the foodie concepts advocated by St Johns was a game changer. He loved it and set out on a worldwide pilgrimage to see how chefs around the world approached the ethnicity of food sustainability. Copenhagen, New York and Stockholm finally let him to Australia where hem met his guru Joost Bakker. – Sustainability warrior, florist, installation artist, designer… whatever you call Joost Bakker, he’s a man ahead of his time.
In Joost, Douglas found the mentor he dreamed of, a man inspired and driven by communicating the message of creating sustainability in life. Together Joost and Douglas set up Silo Melbourne, amazingly the first ever zero waste restaurant in the world.
In 2013 Douglas returned to the UK eager to spread the message here. For many months he looked for space in the east end of London to open a restaurant but could find nothing quite right. Just by chance Douglas did a spell as an invited lecturer at Brighton University. He took to wandering the streets in his spare time. On one occasion he walked past an empty space on Upper Gardner Street. It was not for sale or to rent but Douglas got ‘that’ feeling. The one where butterflies take flight in your tummy and you know its right.
So he knocked on the door, told his story to the building owner and found himself business partner. And that is how it all began.
He stays as true to his values as much as he possibly can. He believes strongly on the pre-industrial food system of minimizing food processing. He looks to Source local, produce where ever possible, he cold mills flour on site. Every element of the Silo experience is thought through to aim for zero waste. Tables and floor are the result of university and schools refitting and throwing them away, they are currently sourcing plates made of supermarket shopping bags. They work with local student studying sustainable design.. The strength of the ethos Douglas wants to communicate runs deep and permeates through every aspect of the business.
For me an inspiring intelligent, driven man, with an amazing vision brought so brilliantly to life, a true testament to fighting for what you believe in and following the dream.
Now all he needs is to stop being a workaholic!
HERE IS THEIR PHILOSOPHY IN THEIR OWN WORDS
The story behind silo
Silo was conceived from a desire to innovate the food industry whilst demonstrating respect: respect for the environment, respect for the way our food is generated and respect for the nourishment given to our bodies. This means that we create everything from its whole form cutting out food miles and over-processing whilst preserving nutrients and the integrity of the ingredients in the process.
Our brewery, Old Tree creates fermented drinks using foraged and intercepted plants, herbs, vegetables and fruit. We have our own flour mill which turns ancient varieties of wheat into flour the original way, opposing over-processed industrialised bread making techniques. We churn our own butter, make our own almond milk, roll our own oats and support a nose to tail ideology, meaning that if an animal dies for food we will maximise the whole beast, respectfully.
Our furniture and fittings are created from a desire to re-use. We choose up-cycling before recycling. Our furniture is made from materials that would otherwise have been wasted and crafted with innovation to serve function. We have plates formed from plastic bags, tables made from industrial floor tiles, work benches crafted from filing cabinet frames and yes, we use jam jars for glasses, but for us this is no gimmick, they are plentiful, multi functional, hard-wearing and the not insubstantial energy that would have been used to re-cycle them is saved.
To achieve Zero Waste, all products that are delivered to us come in re-useable crates, food grade jerry cans, pails, urns or containers. All that isn’t consumed by our customers (or us) is fed into our aerobic digester which can generate up to 60kg of compost in just 24 hours. As our use for it is so minimal due to the way our menu is conceived, we offer its services to our neighbours, both residential and commercial, and that way we can share the benefits of waste reduction across our local community.
We choose to work this way in order to deliver a highly acclaimed menu, fantastic coffee, beautifully baked breads and pastries whilst demonstrating that a truly sustainable food business is viable both financially and ethically. That way, we can encourage the growth of other waste free businesses through collaboration but also simply by demonstrating that it is possible and it works.
Historically Silo has been a lunchtime place to hang out but now they are opening in the evenings and I’d love for you to try it out!
I’m gonna stump up £50 of my own money for an evening table – as I love the place and want as many people to go there as possible! – how’s about that! Just tell me why you want to win below (hint funny always get me!) and I’ll choose the winner on the 31st November. Good Luck.. Angeli xx