Alejandro Cancino - Co-owner and Executive Chef
In the heart of Brisbane the Urbane group hosts two restaurants and a bar – the elegant and exquisite Urbane restaurant, the warm and charming Euro bistro and the funky Laneway Bar.
The challenge was to make it work economically. That’s when Andy and Alejandro put their heads together and came up with a creative way to proudly demonstrate their commitment to sustainability while sharing the costs.
The two restaurants now dispose all food waste including food preparation scraps and plate scrapings into the Closed Loop Organics unit! The food waste is turned into a resource on site, in the form of nutrient rich compost.
“We use seasonal, locally-sourced, organic supplies wherever possible”, tells Alejandro.
“Now, when the farmers drop off their produce we give them some fertiliser. Last week, my strawberry supplier gave me two trays of beautiful fresh strawberries in exchange for a tub full of fertiliser from the composter”
But the real innovation is the way in which Urbane makes this and their other sustainability initiatives economical.
“We try to be sustainable in all aspects of our business” says Alejandro “Not only do we buy local and organic, but we have beehives on the roof and special bacteria that process our grease trap waste.”
“So, we introduced an ‘environmental levy’. Just one dollar per table, and it’s optional so if customers don’t want to pay they don’t have to. But in 12 months only one table didn’t want to pay.”
“It also means we get to tell our customers what we are doing and show them we care about the planet." When we tell them what we’re doing people don’t mind contributing too. We all need to share the costs.”
“We now use the courtyard as an al fresco dining area, which allows us to diversify our dining offerings” says Andy.
“Our service area is much cleaner and we have reduced our general waste production and collection by 90%.”
Urbane continue to enjoy a reputation as offering one of Brisbane’s finest dining experiences and need a new mantelpiece for the awards they are winning.
“It’s very rewarding to be recognised for our dining achievements”, says Alejandro, “but I’m just as proud of our sustainability initiatives. We need to understand we are just custodians of the earth.”
Assistant chef, Will tells how he was sceptical about the Closed Loop Organics unit. “When (Closed Loop Sustainability Consultant) Brendan was telling us how it worked I thought he was full of it. So I loaded the unit up with a dozen large fish frames and seafood offcuts. I checked it out the next day and there was no sign of it - no fish heads or anything. The following day we had a big pork delivery and I loaded about 30kg of trim into the unit. I couldn’t believe it when I opened the machine up the next day and not only was there no sign off the trim but the stuff actually smelled good!”
For more information, check out the Urbane Group on Youtube