Amass has been recognized multiple times not only as one of the best restaurants in the world, but also as one of the most sustainable. For them, a zero waste kitchen has been an incredible creative constraint inspiring major changes to how this fine dining institution cooks, recycles, sources, and operates in their local environment.

Today the restaurant’s food and ingredients are 90% organic. Food waste has been reduced by 75% since they started in 2013 and their annual water consumption is down by 5,200 liters. The restaurant’s facilities also include a garden with 80 varieties of plants and an aquaponic farming system.

A Native New Zealander, Kim Wejendorp was the Sous Chef at Amass Restaurant in Copenhagen before becoming their head of R&D. In this conversation, we talk about how they undertook the transition to sustainability, the creative process that produces a zero waste kitchen, and what kind of partners and innovations they are looking to partner with.

3:20 How did you end up at Amass from New Zealand?
4:10 Amass is famous for their sustainability efforts. What is the backstory for why Amass decided to focus on sustainability?
When we first opened the restaurant, there was no thought about sustainability. It started happening when we decided to get our organic certification. Doing that, we couldn’t ignore the other aspects of the business and how each part also impacted the environment.
6:00 How did you establish the greenhouse and the garden?
The garden keeps us in contact with seasons.
7:30 As a restaurant, what were the challenges around creating a demand for organic with your suppliers?
The system in place is industrial and there aren’t a lot of organic purveyors, especially in your own region. It’s limiting.
9:50 When it comes to influencing agricultural practices, how strong is a high end restaurants sway?
12:40 You only work with vendors willing to take back the shipping/delivery supplies. How hard was it to create that relationship?
Working with small producers is much easier than industrial players to create sustainable relationships.
14:10 How have you encouraged the Amass staff to adopt a zero waste culture?
A kitchen is not really a democracy. The choice is to work there or not.
16:20 Which part of the kitchen is coming up with ideas for increasing sustainability?
If it sounds like it’s going to work, we’ll give it a go twice to be sure. The smallest things can make the biggest changes. We’d be foolish not to listen to everyone’s ideas.
17:50 Do you find that the culture of sustainability is being passed on to the diners?
18:10 Who are your sustainability role models?
The guys at Silo in London are militant.
20:00 Is sustainability a good business case?
It costs money to change your systems, but once it’s up and running it isn’t any more work or money than it otherwise would be.
21:50 What are some of the things you wish you’d know before you transitioned?
We’ve been running on a system for so long without thinking about it. We’re going to have to transition and it’s going to cost us money.
22:40 What is the creative process for creating new dishes or ingredients?
We use everything! No technique is more or less valuable than another.
26:30 How do you collaborate with startups?
28:10 In what areas are you currently looking for collaborators? Any wishes?
We’ll take anyone working on food! We don’t sous vide anything because that would mean a fantastic amount of plastic. Would love to see heat resistant compostable plastic.
29:40 What’s the best way for someone to get in touch?
We’re looking for people who have a project or idea and are interested in testing it. We’d love to help other people work out their own solutions in a working environment.
30:47 How does Amass relate to Broaden and Build?
Broaden and Build is our casual restaurant to showcase that this level of sustainability can be done on any level.
32:10 What does Broaden and Build’s name mean?
Positive emotions will create a positive environment which will give positive returns.
32:55 What is your vision for the food system in 10-15 years?
It would be nice if governments became more involved so that organic is not a choice. It’s the norm. People need to stop thinking of climate change as a choice. It’s a reality.
33:50 What are we missing to get there?
There’s a lot of individual freedom that give people the right to say I don’t want to buy into this. Government lays the framework for those choices.
34:50 How are you working with kids?