Sustainability, nourishing food, properly cooked, nutrient-dense, respectful of the environment, and respectful of the body: These are just a few of the principles behind the creations from Silo; the relatively recent café, restaurant, workshop space and ecologically sound environment to grace Brighton’s North Lanes.
With up-cycled furniture and a passion for ‘zero-waste’, Silo is one of the most forward-thinking yet totally natural and un-pretentious places to spend time in the quirky city. “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”.
Meet Douglas McMaster; a chef of fourteen years, and the brain behind this honest, waste-free, exciting venture into food and sustainability. Having won the Observer Food Monthly 2016 award for Best Ethical Restaurant, this is an opportunity to spread the word about how to cultivate a Zero Waste society, creating more and consuming less.
Q: You’ve been established in Brighton since 2014; do Brightonians love Silo? What have the reactions been to your up-cycled furniture and waste-free menu?
A: Its something that’s never happened in Brighton before. Humans are naturally scared of change so there’s always going to be a degree of scepticism when it comes to out-there ideas, but there’s been a really amazing response so I’m fortunate to have picked Brighton.
In the design world, the furniture for Silo has been a runaway success even though our furniture is based more on necessity than forward thinking design.
Q: What’s the story behind the name ‘Silo?’
A: There is/isn’t a story behind the name. A silo is an industrial holding container. This is a sort of play on the industrial theme and how we are trying to be anti-industrial in terms of food: we are reacting to an industrial industry. The silo is a symbol of industrial agriculture, and the name Silo is more like a simple name that kind of means something and kind of means nothing.
Q: Where does your passion for sustainability stem from?
A: I am passionate about it because I’ve seen the worst and best examples. Seeing the contrasting ethics puts it into perspective.
Q: Society is rather split at the moment in terms of looking after the planet; some continue to go about creating waste, whilst the others are creating a movement towards living waste-free. What do you think the future will look like in terms of waste, environment and sustainability?
A: A very small percentage are trying to live waste free life, I’m talking 0.000000001%. I could count all the people in the world trying to live zero waste on one hand. I think [the future] will be a change from the top down.
Radicals will choose to do things more sustainably from a creative perspective because it’s a great angle; it’s a great subject and way to express strong feelings and opinions about environmental issues. Someone such as myself applied myself to a zero waste system and it got under my skin and became part of me, and now I cant go back to carelessly wasting food. I’ve managed it in quite an exciting way though, so hopefully other industry people will be aware of the issue of waste.
It will start as quite a niche concept with artists and innovators, then the high end restaurants will start using a no waste-ethos, then your middle-end, then before you know it the supermarkets will be dealing with no waste. It will spread so quickly because the planet is suffocating with waste, but it’s definitely a top-down change.
Q: As Silo look to reduce the amount of miles the food has to travel before it reaches the plate, where do you source the bulk of your ingredients from?
A: Local. Zero waste means direct trade, and its easy to trade directly when its local. We’re very open about not being strictly local. We are a coffee house too however, so it’s difficult to be totally local with that side.
Q: #Cleaneating is the latest trend to explode within the wellbeing industry, and health definitely seems to be the new wealth. What’s your stance on eating clean and living well? Do you stick to a particular diet?
A: When you study zero waste, you study industrial food. When you study industrial food, you see the degrading quality of industrial, processed food. Processed food is bad for the body and bad for the environment.
At Silo our dishes are based on a primitive, natural diet, and a natural diet is the healthiest diet in the world. If there is meat involved, it is from the best agricultural source, and I emphasise less meat. A very small percentage of what we serve is actually meat. We have a very Palaeolithic approach, a caveman style and a natural food belief.
Q: Have you always been ‘healthy’ and interested in creating alternative dishes?
A: No. The reason I want to create healthy and alternative food is because I was sad and depressed as a child, and when I stopped eating processed food I suddenly felt a lot better about myself. I was more focused, had much more energy, was more efficient and more creative.
Q: What’s your favourite item on the Silo menu this season and why?
A: We had a really nice dish of potatoes and blackcurrants with a whey sauce and fennel pollen. That was really special.
Q: What three things can everyone start doing to cultivate a more sustainable lifestyle right now?
A: The main thing that needs to be done is that people need to be thinking more. There’s a Plato saying, “Think more”, which is so, so good. It sounds quite harsh but it doesn’t have to be, it’s just a matter of questioning everything you do. It’s to not believe what people tell you on the TV etc.
There’s a lot of very brilliant people in the world who are doing amazing things. When people ask me how to live zero waste at home, I say don’t listen to me, listen to Lauren Singer. She’s a zero waste domestic professional and I’m a commercial zero waste professional. But a more ecological way to live overall is just to learn more.
Q: What do you do every day to look after yourself and your health?
A: Eating Silo sourdough keeps me ticking along
Q: Silo hosts an array of fascinating workshops and events, what have you got planned for the upcoming months?
A: Lots of fermentation workshops; we do demonstrations for making kefir and kombucha. and nut cheese workshops. We’re looking into cooking classes and lots more talks and demonstrations too.
You can find Silo on Upper Gardener Street in the North Laines of Brighton. Pop in for a coffee or small batch kombucha, browse the bakery, or book a table for one of their fantastically innovative meals. For all information, menus and upcoming events, head to www.silobrighton.com