It was great to catch up with Raymond Blanc last week for birthday cake. Not his, you understand, or ours for that matter. No, we were in London to celebrate the fifth birthday of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the amazing organisation of which the legendary chef is the president.
Arbor, Bournemouth’s 2-AA rosette restaurant, this year is the SRA’s most environmentally-friendly restaurant in the UK, for our commitment to running our kitchens with maximum energy and water efficiency and minimum waste, and finding ever-new ways to reduce our environmental impact.
Founded five years ago by a group of high-profile foodies including Mark Sainsbury, founder of Moro and the Zetter Hotel, and Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of healthy fast food chain Leon, the SRA aims to provide people with a simple way of choosing places to eat that match their values in relation to how a restaurant sources ingredients, how it treats its customers, staff and local community, and how it meets its environmental responsibilities.
After we opened our doors in 2010 – co-incidentally the same year the SRA was founded – Arbor quickly crossed their radar, receiving their maximum 3-star rating, sometimes called “the Michelin Stars of Sustainability”, for four years running.
As part of the Green House Hotel, Bournemouth’s most environmentally-friendly luxury boutique hotel – often dubbed “the greenest hotel in Britain” – Arbor’s kitchen sustainability is far from radical. This lovely write-up in the October issue of Olive Magazine explains it well: “This is just what they do every day, it’s normal.”
Low-energy induction hobs, super-efficient appliances, hot-fill dishwashers, and recycling our waste oil to fuel our company car… we have been working this way since the get-go. The emphasis for Head Chef Andy Hilton and his team is ensuring the food they produce in our sustainable kitchen is as fresh, as seasonal, as local and as delicious as it can be.
So we didn’t just go to last week’s SRA event just for the cake or for Raymond Blanc’s dreamy French accent (though neither disappointed!). We also went to celebrate the launch of the SRA’s new consumer movement Food Made Good.
Having gone from 52 members (including us) at the beginning to over 5000 venues across the UK today, the SRA feels it’s time to take things up a notch, to really reach out to diners who eat out and care about food and “turn that passion into action”.
The formal launch of Food Made Good will be at the superb Abergavenny Food Festival later this week (19th and 20th September), with a key note session featuring Raymond Blanc in conversation with Shelia Dillon.
There’s a new website – www.foodmadegood.org – and a campaign, #MakeFoodGood and new Food Made Good stickers in restaurant windows, ads, and so on: we will be displaying ours proudly! Look out for them – they will tell you where you can find food that is not only good, but also made in a really good way.
The aim for the SRA is to get to the point where this is the norm, and doesn’t need a special association or a consumer campaign.
It’s this business-as-usual approach that explains why Head Chef Andy declined to make any grand statements when the Olive Magazine interviewer probed him about sustainability practices. “Week-to-week it doesn’t affect us,” he said. “We don’t talk about it a lot. It’s just the way we work.”