Michelin stars, Gault Millau points — in the fine dining universe, the measures for success are pretty straightforward. But what happens if you want your legacy to be more than some rating on a list? Matt Orlando’s answer is simple: Serving delicious food while being responsible along the way.
For the chef and owner of Amass Restaurant, sustainability is a frame of mind. Ice cream from leftover bread? Sure. Coffee grounds on crisps? Why not. His drive not only sparks creativity in the kitchen but permeates hiring, the culture, his guests and eventually lays a path for the whole industry.
Simon: Hey — this is Simon of The Idealists podcast where Silja and I sit down with people rewriting the story of our global economy. This new narrative comes in many different shapes and forms and sometimes appears in places you wouldn’t expect: The fine-dining world. When your success depends on Michelin stars and Gault Millau points – there’s little room for thinking differently. So you either fit in – or live on your own terms.
Silja: And you know what they say: To break the rules, you must first master them. That’s pretty much what Matt Orlando did. Working through the most well known, star-spangled restaurants of the world, he became Noma’s first Chef de Cuisine in 2010.
Simon: And what do you do, after you’re the head chef of the “best restaurant in the world”? Matt felt it was time to build his dream project and opened Amass in 2013. The vision is pretty straightforward: Responsible deliciousness!
Silja: What does responsible mean? That 90–100% of the food and beverages are organically certified? That you make ice cream out of leftover bread? That you build an aquaponic farming system in the restaurant’s very own greenhouse? Yes, yes and yes.
Simon: You see, to answer this question, Matt and his team are on a journey. And this journey doesn’t come with a preformatted playbook, does it?
Matt: I think we burned that playbook about six years ago.
Simon: Right. And why exactly did you do that?
Matt: So Amass opened July 2013. So about six and a half years ago. And we opened as a normal restaurant. We didn't have the mindset or the ethos that we operate under now. And we had been open for about six months, and we had our first closure. And just a friend asked me, she asked me, she goes: Okay, you open six months like, what's next? Or you going to have systems in place? You're operating what's important to what? What do you want Amass to be? And it's a pretty interesting question to be asked. And I had seen, like when you're the Head Chef at other people's restaurants; you're very much focused on executing what they want.
Silja: You kind of contribute to their vision.
Matt: Exactly. You 100% contribute to their vision. And because of that, you're so focused on that your peripheral vision is somewhat limited and you're just super focused on that. So when you open your own restaurant, your peripheral vision becomes infinitely larger and you start to see all these things happening that you've never seen before. And for me, these things were just shocking to me how much waste we were producing. We've had the garden since the beginning. So we started composting, and I saw how that was having quite an effect on the amount of waste going into this, just straight into the garbage. And then I was asked this question, so the wheels were turning a little bit. I didn't know how they were turning or what direction they were turning. But then when I was asked that question, I really took a step back and was like, okay, the word responsibility popped into my head instantly.
I don't know where it came from, but it just was the word. And I remember so clearly, and it just got bounced around in there for like a week. And I was really trying to figure out what does it mean to operate a responsible restaurant? And I had never worked at a restaurant where this was the driving force. It's always like every restaurant has executed perfect food, perfect service. Everything else that happens around it is an afterthought. It's secondary to those two things.
And so I had, or we had a week before we were reopening. So I just thought about this word. It just was like I was obsessed with this word responsible. And then, I started to formulate a plan, and it wasn't really a plan. It was like just a thought of what this might be. And I sat down with the staff before reopening. I said, okay, we've been open six months now. We're coming back. We have all these systems in place. We're operating a restaurant. Forget about all that. This is what we're going to do.
Simon: A week before reopening?
Matt: Well, three days before opening.
Silja: And What did they say?
Matt: All of them just looked at me with like a thousand-yard stare.
Oh, God. What does this mean? I didn't even know what I mean because none of us had worked in a restaurant like that. And so we just kind of started to pick away at it. And people always ask me that like, oh, how do you do this? I'm like, well, first of all, this took six and a half years to do; to get where we're at. And so don't think you're going just instantly to be like this. If you want to be like this, it takes time to do it correctly. So we've just started chipping away at little things, and we had, or I had somewhat of a list, but that list was very fluid because …
Simon: Just what came to your mind or what was that?
Matt: Yeah, basically. But as you dig deeper and deeper, the list gets bigger and bigger because you become more and more aware. And I'm obsessed with like singular words that mean a lot like responsible, awareness, impact, stuff like this because if you take singular words, you can apply them over such a broad spectrum. So you're just not aware of this as a chef because you're taught to think in a certain way and execute in a certain way.
Simon: Diving a bit deeper in that switch you talked about, you came from Noma at that point in 2013.
Matt: Yeah, yes!
Simon: And what was that like? Because, as you said, running as a Head Chef at Noma, coming to opening up your own restaurant and putting your heart in it. What was it like? I almost imagine it like a corset being ripped open. And then you have to kind of find your own way in a sense.
Matt: It's taken me a while to come up with how to explain it in a very short way. But the best way to say, you know, Mike Tyson said one time: You can have the best plan going into the ring — until you get punched in the face, right. And that plan is out the door like with a restaurant. You can have the most calculated plan ever, and you think you have a vision of what you want to do and then you unlock the door on the first day. That vision just goes away because that's where the reality sets in. And people have opinions, and your staff has opinions and emotions and egos. And there's just so many factors that don't always match the plan that you want to execute.
Silja: It's good to have the vision as a direction; a direction where you want to go. And then life happens in between. But you kind of have this direction as a leading light.
Matt: Yeah, and it's okay to change directions as well as long as you believe in what you're changing. And you're changing directions because you believe in the direction you want to go in. A lot of people change directions because they panic. Oh, we're not as busy as we thought we're going to be, they change concepts in this. We never changed concepts here. We just changed how we work as a team and how we execute. So the food obviously has changed over six years, but that happens naturally in a restaurant as you find your own voice and your own style and how you like to cook and serve in the flavours you like that naturally change. But the food here has changed because of the way we work. The creative process has become inverted on itself because of the way we work with by-products and the way we are really calculated and how we use everything that we have. I mean, the creative process now is affected by the by-products more than the actual base products that we use.
Simon: You call that, I think, reverse cooking?
Matt: Yeah, what do we call that? Cooking backwards!
Simon: Cooking backwards. So it's that, for example, one concept you would say that stayed the same? That is kind of really in the DNA of Amass?
Matt: Not until that six-month mark where we were like, we're going to change.
Simon: So there's a pre-six-month Amass, and there's a post-six-month Amass until now.
Matt: So yes, but as we go on, it becomes more and more extreme like before when we kind of made this mental switch it was still cooking with like your main products, but then using like by-products as like a seasoning or just like a sprinkle here or there. Now we actually start with the by-product as the starting point when we are coming up with a new dish, and then a piece of fish is added at the very end. So it's basically reversed, and some dishes actually contain no regular products. And if you look at every dish on the menu, every dish contains a by-product of some sort, either of another dish on the menu currently or a dish that has been on the menu.
Simon: And if you talk about becoming more radical over time, is that something which is induced by the feedback of the people or your kind of leadership style; you as a person? Or is this something which comes from the team?
Matt: It comes from the team. 100%. And there are two very, very important factors here. First and foremost is a mental switch. You have to switch mentally. And I just wrote something for another publication this week about that. They wanted to know what the most difficult part of doing this is? And so and I said, you know, the physical act of taking almond pulp and turning it into dairy-less ricotta or taking kale stems and turning them into something that tastes like seaweed. That's actually the easiest part of this whole equation. It's the mental aspect of switching and seeing that kale stem and challenging that there's still flavour in there and coaxing that flavour out of it. So that in the end, it's simply as like, okay, I'm going to put this orange peel in the biowaste as opposed to in the regular and having this if I go to throw it in the regular trash there's this weird feeling I have of doing that. The mental part is the most important factor in it. But then second to that is how do you convince your team to do that? And then it becomes a psychological thing. Then the whole psychological factor of this way of working is is the most difficult part about it.
Silja: Would you say your way of hiring changed as well?
Matt: I think yes because when you sit down and talk with someone, and you see how they move around the kitchen during their trial and really embrace and ask questions about what we're doing. That's how you can gauge if this person is really interested or they're just here to put it on their CV, which are the people we don't want. We want people that are here that are committed to this way of thinking, and they want to learn more about it, and they want to contribute to it. Because I tell everyone here, like, yeah, you're here to work, and you're here to learn, but you're here to contribute to the team. It is a requirement that you contribute to the evolution of this restaurant because, you know, if you look at the dynamics of the team here, I think we have 22 people on the payroll, and only four of them are Danish. So people are coming here from all over the world to work, and so they come with a different mindset. I know when I moved from San Diego to New York, my work ethic was: I'm here to work. Or I came from New York to the UK: I'm here to work. It's like you come with a different mindset, but you also come with a commitment. And if you're coming here and making this commitment, then you need to be doing it for the right reasons. And you need to grow not only as a cook but as a human being and seeing the world in a different way because that's essentially Amass. I view it as somewhat of an experiment in culture. How do you switch? If we can switch the people's way of thinking that work here, then how do we bring that outside of the walls of this restaurant?
Simon: When you say this mindset gets activated in a way, do you think the people have to bring some sort of spark in them that you can then ignite and light a fire? Or is this more something which they really learn from scratch? That this is a new way of thinking, a different way of running a restaurant?
Matt: In most cases, it is from scratch, but it's the willingness that we're looking for. The willingness to forgo a lot of ways that you have been brought up as a chef and kind of put those to the side and approach cooking in a completely different way, different mindset.
Simon: The process of unlearning stuff and then overwriting that with new experiences..
Matt: Exactly. Sometimes I still, you know, you walk around the kitchen, you'll be like, why is there a leaf of lettuce in the garbage can? And you kind of look around like … I used to really freak out. Now, I've just I kind of look around. I'm like, all right. Who in this kitchen hates the planet Earth? Everyone looks around, and I hold that the lettuce and you'd see one person: Awwwh.
Simon: Talking about culture in an organizational way. If you compare, like regular companies with a kitchen or with a restaurant, my view or my observation is that a kitchen is in itself the hierarchies are very clear because they have to be very efficient and they execute in a very structured way. Whereas in a company the trend is to kind of make them more fluid so that hierarchies are not as steep and that, you know, people can be approachable in the leadership team and all that. How would you say is that within Amass? Is this also a very steep hierarchy? Because it has to be like this because it's so focused on good execution?
Matt: I think that's old school. That's an old school way of thinking. Yes, there needs to be some hierarchy. But I think that the way we're approaching the kitchen here is very different. You know, every single person in the kitchen has the chance to have an impact — every day. There's a whiteboard downstairs that we have in the kitchen. I'll generally start an idea, I'll put up an ingredient and then people - anybody in the kitchen - can grab one of the markers and write off another ingredient. And then we kind of spider out and then we all sit down like, OK, this is my thought process. I'll say this, my thought process ingredient. What's your thought process here? What's your thought process here? And so there's a constant conversation in regards to creativity that happens in the kitchen. But this doesn't stop at the food. So if you work on the hot section downstairs, you work that section every single day. If you work that section every single day, I'm going to come to you, periodically, and say: Are you setting your section up as efficiently as possible? And then they're going to say: Well, I started like this, but it was kind of not working like this. So I did it like this, and now I'm … So they have the opportunity. They work it every day. They know how they move better than I do. It's their section they work it every single day. And so I require that constant thought of "Yes, I have a way of doing it." But is there a better way to do it? Like when we have our manager meetings every other week where we examine every aspect of the restaurant, kitchen, front of the house, how the food goes out of the kitchen, the bathrooms, private dining, refrigerators. And yes, we have ways that work great. But: There's always another way to do it that could be more efficient, and I think if you stop looking for those ways, then you lose that opportunity. And that applies to the menu here. We've been open six and a half years. When one dish goes on the menu and comes off, it's never done again, because if you have dishes to fall back on, then you miss the opportunity to evolve. So we just eliminate that opportunity, that safety net. So we have to keep pushing forward with that thought process constantly.
Simon: So this is a very strong element of co-creation within your team.
Matt: Oh, a massive element of co-creation. It's also in the dining room as well. They are they come to me constantly like, oh, what about we do this? And what about we do this? We move this here, and it's a constant … Or in service: What about the coffee service and do this instead? My motto is I'll try anything twice because if you don't take chances and that's what I think is one of the downsides of the current state of the restaurant industry right now is that there's all these lists and ratings that people they do well on. And then all of a sudden they stop taking chances because they think they've found the formula.
Silja: Or they are afraid to fail.
Matt: They're afraid to fail, and they're afraid to lose a seat on the list. And so this is creating this kind of … we are at a point like five, six, seven, eight years ago with a restaurant or even ten years ago: the restaurant industry was just progressing so fast. And now it's just kind of like slow, and there's not this intense progression anymore because people are afraid to take chances. And if that culture exists here, we're like, okay, yeah, we're doing great. We're in the top 50 list above. We just kind of made a formula. I would just rather shut the restaurant because a restaurant is a breathing thing. It's a living thing that you need to keep feeding ideas as any business is — to evolve.
Simon: I was just going to say that in that sense, it's very similar to like every other business. And in a way that as an entrepreneur, you kind of have the idea, and you're progressing very, very fast in the beginning. And if you find that kind of formula that works for you, you try it; you start hiring people. You're responsible for the families and all that. You evolve in that sense, but also try to dial back on the risk.
Simon: And I feel like that's something that you are not willing to do.
Matt: No, no, I'd rather. I mean, it's quite an alternative dining experience when you come here. I mean, there's graffiti everywhere. There's hip hop playing. You're sitting in a … I mean, the dining room itself is pretty sophisticated. The service is probably the hardest service to execute because you walk this razor-sharp edge of upscale and casual. Because we want people to be loud and talk and have a good time and not feel like they would sit there quietly. And so you walk this razor-sharp edge of that. And because you walk this razor-sharp edge, you have people that think it should be something or think it should be something else. So we definitely have our critics, and people are like, what? What is this? And that's fine. Because the people that really do get it and understand it, they love it because it's such a different way of dining.
Simon: It's probably a good measure to have people criticizing you in a bad way. Otherwise, you would lose your edge.
Matt: Yeah. And I think that's. I mean, I really struggle with that in the beginning. Like when people say, what is this, and what are you doing? I don't like this. Because when it's your own restaurant or your business, in fact, it's you. You're like really putting yourself out there, exposing yourself. And so when people criticize it, and you're just you're working. You're giving 150% effort, and someone says it's shit and you're like, what? And it's taking me time to really understand that. So if you don't have critics, then you're not pushing the envelope a little bit. You're not taking risks. You're not challenging people on what an experience should be. And so that for me, that's the fun part of it now. And when people do have their opinions about it, I love to take those conversations because a lot of the times it's just that you need to have a conversation about what this place means.
Simon: That makes sense.
Matt: So communication of what we do here, I think, has been our biggest challenge. How do we communicate what we do? Because there's a fine line between communicating and preaching. And you don't want to preach. Because what we do and how we talk about it sometimes is perceived as preaching like we're this holy entity that is going to save the restaurant industry and we're doing all this stuff, and our CO2 footprint is so low and blahblahblah. At first, we're like, oh, we'll just do it because it should be done. But we also see now that if you want if we want to have an impact, we do need to talk about it. So people become aware, and now we're like to the point where I'm like, OK, let's start to become a little more obnoxious about it. Like, really show people when they sit down to eat. This is what your CO2 footprint would be at a normal upscale restaurant. This is what your CO2 footprint is at Amass.
Just so they can see because people go out to eat, they don't understand any of that. So let's start to get that information out there. Understand that when you do go out to eat, there is a consequence of that.
Silja: Is there one thing that you wish you knew when you started on this journey?
Matt: There's many. So many mistakes we've made along the way. And before I answer your question, there are so many mistakes we made along the way, and we often get contacted, say, oh, hey, could you hook us up with the company that consulted to help you guys get to where we are? And we're like, we didn't have a company. We just kind of organically figured it out. And I'm so glad we did it. And maybe it took us a lot longer. But I'm so glad we did it because we weren't fed information from an outside source, so we weren't manipulated in any way in the ways we went. We just did it. When the moment arrives, we addressed it and worked through it and then went on to the next. And so I think we've probably achieved much more than we would have maybe over a longer period time. But I think the next the next thing for us is how do we take all this information that we've gathered over the last six and a half years and distil it into something that we can actually help restaurants do this in a shorter period of time? But I believe your question was, what was the most challenging?
Silja: If there is a thing that you wish you'd knew when you started out on this journey.
Matt: I wish I would have known what our CO2 footprint was much earlier or I wish I would have understood the value of data because I think we're in a very interesting place in the restaurant industry now. The word sustainability, which we don't really say in the restaurant anymore, we say responsibility or responsible. Sustainability is becoming a catchphrase like organic. And a lot of the industry is throwing it around to greenwash themselves because it's a cool thing.
Simon: And it's also a thing that sells, I believe.
Matt: Exactly. And so. You know, how do you understand when you say that word? What does that mean? How do you understand what that means? Because you can't just say that word. We're doing this, so we are sustainable. What is that like? What do you mean? How do you know you're sustainable? And the best example and I say I wish I would have known what our CO2 from it was earlier because we started this whole process in 2014. We didn't get our first CO2 reading till 2016. So that means we didn't get it till 2017.
Simon: And the CO2 reading is this from the place itself or the food that you produce?
Matt: Everything. So we were already working for two years in this mindset, doing a lot of things. And I thought we are going to smash this. We're going to get such a good CO2 rating. The average restaurant, high-end restaurant, produces 19 to 21 kilos of CO2 per guest. When we got our first reading, we were producing 18kg, and I was like, how is that possible? We're doing all this stuff. But because we didn't understand what we were doing, we were just doing things, not understanding what impact it had, thinking we were great and doing all the things. But actually, we were spending so much effort on all these things that had very little impact. And we were missing the things that had the bigger impact. When this CO2 analysis of a very intense process and where you understand what was the CO2 footprint of the turbot you ordered in over the year like that detail. And so once we had that analysis and had conversations with the group, that did for us, Zero Footprint. Then we could make calculated decisions based on actual data on how to reduce our footprint. So now we work with the university with students that do our footprint every year. So they do their thesis on Amass and our carbon footprint, and we work with them closely on understanding the process of measuring the carbon footprint. So last year we came in at around 12kg. But we've only been able to achieve that by understanding the data. You know, the little nitrogen cartridges that you do you air-raid stuff.
Simon: For cream or some?
Matt: Yeah, yeah. We used 82 of those over the whole year. 82 individual ones. Most restaurants use 82 in a week. That accounted for 1% of our emissions.
Simon: So that was a bit counterintuitive to you that this was such a little impact.
Matt: No, no. That is a massive impact on only 82 cartridges. It's a massive impact. So we just based on that, we just eliminated it completely. That's 1% of our emissions right off the bat.
Simon: Got it.
Silja: It's a mix of intuition in the first place, kind of going into the right direction and starting somewhere and then understanding data and the process behind all these trendy words to then achieve a bigger impact.
Matt: And I think when you start to understand data and the importance of that, that's when you start to get frustrated by people, you know or not using data. And just like throwing things out there and just making I mean, clearly just false statements because they don't understand what's happening.
Simon: And why do you think is that? Because obviously there could be an economic reason for that, that they say, okay if we put this out there, …
Matt: There's only an economic reason.
Simon: That's the major reason.
Matt: I mean, I think it's a driving force. And that's why I say we're at this weird tipping point right now because there are all these restaurants out there that are preaching this and not understanding it. And then by doing that, it's completely devaluing the work of people who are really doing it, like Doug from Silo in London, he's militant. Christian Puglisi at Relæ, and us. And there are numerous other restaurants out there doing this. And I think everyone gets frustrated by all these people just throwing words and facts around that don't mean anything because they are not based on data. I mean, it's the perfect American government's scenario. That's what's happening in the US government right now. But I think that just happens in the world in general. But it's the first time I've really seen it in the restaurant world. And I think that's what scares me a little bit like the restaurant world is based in hospitality and making people feel good. Is it somewhat becoming tainted like the rest of the world?
Simon: If you take the customers or the guest perspective in that sense. How does this driving like the militant force of being responsible? How does this translate to an experience of the guests in the first place?
Matt: Well, for us, first and foremost, it has to be delicious. Nothing we do or nothing we will serve … I was gonna say nothing we do is disgusting, but we make a lot of things that are disgusting.
Simon: Co-creating disgusting stuff!
Matt: Yeah! Obviously, those never make it onto the menu, but you have to fail to achieve something. But I always say to staff, you know, we have an obligation to serve super delicious food, have great service, because that's the only way we're going to convince the industry that this is the right direction to go. And you don't have to compromise anything. In fact, you enhance the guest experience. For me, it's the pinnacle of what I feel is the guest experience here: When you have someone come into the restaurant, they've heard about it from a friend, or they've seen it on an in-flight magazine or something like that. They don't really understand what we're doing here. They sit down. They get a brief introduction at the beginning. That's a little thing you read about, okay, this is kind of our mindset. And they start to have the meal, and they just eat. And then halfway through, they become interested and start asking questions about our thought process. And by the end of the meal, they're like, oh, this is crazy. I've never had a meal like this. I'm walking away from this experience, like with no guilty conscience because I've eaten at a restaurant that is operating in this way. That for me, is like a really powerful experience. And I think for the guests as well. And it makes people question their own life. And how they approach situations at home.
Simon: You're kind of adding a layer of experience to the food, to the music, to the service, to the hospitality. This is kind of a new layer you're adding.
Matt: A new layer. And that's what we're trying to achieve. We want people to go online, okay, where we're going to eat tonight? I don't know. We're not going there because they don't really operate in the right way or. I mean, I can tell you right now, the majority of the meals I have in Copenhagen are at one of Christian Puglisi's restaurants.
Matt: Because I know that the products they use are… I know where they come from. I know the farmers myself because we use a lot of the same farmers and I just know that it's the right thing to do. And so how can we kind of have the general public start making decisions like this?
Simon: And as we're talking about this, how do you see that paradox between because your restaurants and also Puglisi's restaurants are, I would not say for the 1%, but they are not your kind of everyday eatery in that sense. And therefore are for a certain set of people. And you have the kind of aspiration to make that thought process for everyone. How is that possible?
Matt: I mean, we have a restaurant and a brewery.
Simon: Let's talk about the brewery.
Matt: Let's talk about it. So we opened the brewery in January of 2019. You know, we do 60 guests a night here. That's not a large number of people to impact. So how do we take our thought process here and our mindset here and apply it to something that is scalable to impact as many people as possible? And we have a full restaurant over there as well. And how do we make food that is way more approachable? Not only taste wise but from an economic standpoint. You can get a four-course menu over there for 300 kronor. And we have fried chicken and fermented potatoes and stuff like this. And so how do we apply this process to a more casual setting to impact a much larger group of people? And that's a big part of why we did the brewery. Also, I love beer, as well.
Simon: Good coincidence!
Matt: So that kind of the answer because I used to get continuously engaged at conferences and symposiums. OK, great! You operate an upscale restaurant. That's why you're able to do this. I'm like, no. You can do this in a casual setting as well. And we saw the opportunity also over there because it's such a large space that we built a research kitchen. It's still called Amass Research Kitchen. So Kim and I have … Kim has been with me since day one. He's Head of R&D over there. And it's always been him and I and Max, my Head Chef, doing a little project while we're butchering a piece of fish on the side. And so we just got to the point where, from an R&D perspective, we had so many things we've done, and we had all of our notebooks filled. Now we need a space where we can just focus on that stuff and understand what we were doing. And then, like I said, be able to distill a lot of our thought processes and techniques and processes into something that we could eventually share with the rest of the restaurant industry. And so that's what we're doing in that space. And it's really exciting because now that we have a bit of headspace to focus on these things, that is opened up even more processes and techniques. And a big part of what we've learned and you know, we open the space eventually or initially to process all the byproducts from Amass and from Broaden and Build. And then we started to have these conversations with large format food industrial food outlets.
Simon: Those who make the impact in the end.
Matt: Those who produce a lot of stuff like someone who sells bread to Irma, stuff like that, because they're like we don't know what we can do together, but we love the way you guys think. Can you look at one of the byproducts that we create and maybe we can come up with something? So Jalm&B, the bread company approached us a year ago, and they said let's have a coffee just to have a conversation. We don't know about what. So we had this conversation about what we could do, and we saw the different spice mix. And we asked them how much bread you guys have everyday leftover. It's over 100 loaves of bread, I believe between 50 and 100. I'm not quite sure the exact number that they have every day that they can't sell because of the wrong shape to go into the bags they put them in. So I said, bring us the bread. And we worked on a process to take that bread and changed the starch of the bread to sugar, and then we take that liquid, reduce it and make ice cream out of it.
Simon: So a bread to ice cream factory.
Matt: They loved it. We did it at Copenhagen Cooking in August. We had a stand where they had one of their events. And we just gave it away. I gave a talk on stage about it. And then Irma was like, let's talk about this. So nothing's come out of it yet. But we have the first quarter of 2020. Hopefully, this will become something that's produced.
Simon: So this would be the real kind of result of having kind of a luminary idea, a visionary idea here at Amass, then kind of scaling that or making that more open to the broader people at Broaden and Build.
Simon: Another topic that just was so amazing to me is that everything in that industry is basically based on collaboration. So those collaborations you can see are Richard Hart doing bread at Broaden and Build or John's Hotdog Deli doing hotdogs there. And this is like the stuff you can see. But collaborating like Irma coming to Amass and asking for advice in that sense or a way to reuse it.
Matt: I mean, for us, that's the ultimate goal. And how do we engage large format food producers, identify waste streams and then turn them into something that they can resell that's delicious? And I think as soon as you are going to take something that you lose money on and we're going to make something that you make money on out of it, then as soon as money is involved, then everyone's interested. Another thing that we talk about is that we obviously are in this for the moral part of it. Of course, we need to make money to keep all these projects going. But it's deep-rooted in the moral responsibility to do something that has an impact on the environment around us. But you know what, if you're a big corporation and you have no morals, and you want to do something just to make money. But that something is something that eliminates a byproduct or a waste stream that has a positive impact on the environment. I don't care why you do it. You just do it. If money is your driving force, fine, at least you're doing something responsible. Money is a driving force for why a lot of big businesses do things that are irresponsible. So why can't there be a driving force for them doing things that are responsible?
Simon: So how to flip the script in that sense and use the power of money for something better?
Simon: Yeah. Okay. That's very interesting. And on that note, as you set out Amass not …, or that would be my impression, not to optimize for maximum profit in that sense because you probably you could get a Michelin star if you really wanted to.
Matt: It's funny, René Redzepi. René (over from Noma) and I are really good friends. And he always jokes, chef, you could just put some tablecloths on and put some jazz on, and you get two Michelin stars like that. And I like… And then he always smiles and winks and jokes because he knows I'll never do it. But it's a true fact. Like if we could do some minor tweaks here, to do that; to fit the criteria. But that is so far from what we're about, and I'm so lucky that the team that I have here: They don't give a shit about that stuff. They're here for the right reasons.
Simon: It's also kind of a filter for people coming here.
Matt: Yes, exactly. And you can see the people right away that they don't quite fit in. And we've had a few people start, and you're just like, it's just something not right about this. And then they end up leaving after two or three months. But the people that stay here, which is the majority of the staff, they're here. I mean, most people in the kitchen have been here between three and five years. In the dining room, all upper-level dining room staff has been here a minimum of four years. So I think it's because it's a unique environment outside the restaurant world that I believe stimulates people because we change the graffiti every year. And I think that's a big reason why we don't get a lot of these accolades because we change the experience constantly. So in a lot of these accolades, they want a consistent experience, and we change it all the time.
Silja: It's hard to measure if you change all the time.
Matt: Yeah. And that's fine, you know.
Simon: My second last question would probably be: Every chef has the goal of not making the most money, but making the best food on the planet. Yeah. What I take away from this is that you add a new layer. It's not only making the best food on the planet but also for the planet.
Simon: In that sense, it is kind of a new dimension you dig into. And what I would be interested in is: Right now, you are kind of the visionary in that sense. You offer that to your guests. When do you think we'll be the inflexion point when the guests demand that from you?
Matt: That would be … I mean, honestly, if the guests start demanding that… the whole CO2 footprint thing, it's I mean, there are debates about it. And but it's a baseline to start from. Imagine if we lived in a world where people were not only going on TripAdvisor to see who has the most stars or whatever, but people were going on websites to see what the CO2 footprint was. If that was a factor in people choosing restaurants. That for me, I could just retire. I'd be so happy at that point that this is the norm. I can't even tell you like I just get excited that you actually just brought that up because no one has ever brought that up. It's always me bringing this up. And the fact that if this could be criteria that people use to choose the place that they eat, that I mean, I could say that there would be a push, a massive push within the industry to move in this direction. I got in this massive argument when I was in Helsinki a few months ago at a conference with a guy in the audience, and he says, we have to force the big industry to change, or we have to wait for them or something like that. If you think that big industry is going to change, you're crazy, man. The consumer has to change because big industry… if they're making money, they're not going to change. They don't care what they're doing to the planet. If the consumer demands it, then they'll change. So the consumer has to change. And we've got in a big argument about the responsibility. Whose responsibility is it? And we all want to believe that it's the big industry's responsibility. But that's a pipe dream. If you think they're going to change it. There has to be a demand from the consumer. And if that demand, when going out to eat, were to understand people's CO2 footprint, that would be amazing. I think that's the one of the big kind of points we're trying to make here: transparency, I think, is what is important.
Simon: Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, rate the show on Apple Podcasts, follow us on Spotify. Or maybe just tell someone about it. You can find all episodes on www.theidealists.co! As always, here's our last question: Who should we talk to next?
Matt: In or out of the industry? Anybody?
Matt: Skagerrak. Jesper Panduro has a really aggressive plan, and you know, I spoke at a conference in Malmo a couple of years ago, and he was in the audience, and he contacted me the next day and said: Wow! I make furniture. You make food. I have no idea how we can work together, but let's get a coffee. And so we sat down, had a coffee. And what he's doing within kind of the furniture realm and as far as like sourcing woods and understanding that was really amazing. He would be a great interview. Doug McMaster from Silo in London. He is one of my really good friends. I could arrange that if you like. But Doug McMaster, he is militant about this way of thinking, and we approach it from very different angles. But his approach is I mean, every time I go and spend time with him, I come back here thinking, we're not doing enough. He is a visionary like he is thinking so far ahead. Sometimes when I talk with them, I'm like, what are you on drugs? This is crazy. I love it. But this is crazy. He's amazing, man. He's like taking all those wine bottles and turning them into plates.
Simon: A creative problem solver then.
Matt: Yeah, that's what he does. There's no such thing as a zero-waste restaurant. It'll never exist. But if you want to get as close to zero waste as possible: Doug McMaster is the one you want to talk to.
📷 Chris Tonnesen for Amass
"Imagine if we lived in a world where people were not only going on TripAdvisor to see who has the most stars or whatever, but people were going on websites to see what the CO2 footprint was. If that was a factor in people choosing restaurants, I could just retire. I'd be so happy at that point that this is the norm."
— Matt Orlando [00:41:32]
Mihela Hladin Wolfe
City of Helsinki
Mariah Mansvelt Beck
B Lab Europe
Christian Paul Kägi