Claire Wills-Diquet and Gaelle Bonnieux

Re and Little Red Door: Working together for a better future

25 May, 2023

Food waste and positive farming techniques are the goals of two Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award winners. Shay Waterworth follows the new efforts of Re and Little Red Door.

It’s no new phenomenon when bars talk about sustainability. In fact, for any of the world’s top venues, it’s a necessity to have a finger on the pulse when it comes to reducing waste and being aligned with sustainable practices. Earlier this year, Little Red Door in Paris, which won The World’s 50 Best Bars Ketel One Sustainable Bar Award 2022, collaborated with Re of Sydney, which took the same title in 2020 and 2021.

As part of the event, Re founder Matt Whiley performed a guest shift at the Parisian bar and led a seminar on the process of creating drinks and a food menu from waste produce. Re is the world’s first purpose-built, zero-waste bar and sits in an old locomotive workshop in South Eveleigh, Sydney. The wall panels and bar top are made from 82,000 milk bottles, light shades and wine coolers from mushroom, ceramics from waste clay, menus from coffee cups and, well, the list goes on. In fact, just about anything you can touch in the bar is serving a second purpose and some of its most popular serves use innovative ingredients, from spent chicken feet to waste seafood shells.

“When we talk about waste produce, it’s not the leftover food from somebody’s plate in a restaurant,” says Whiley, confronting a room filled with the top bartenders in Paris. “It’s the produce which never even makes it on to a supermarket shelf, for example because it’s wonky or imperfect. We all have our imperfections, it’s just how we make the most of what we get.”

During his seminar, Whiley pointed out that “if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the US and China”. He also cited that 8% of total greenhouse gases heating the planet are caused by food waste, which was one of the big driving factors behind the creation of Re. “The bar isn’t the answer – it will barely make an impact on the overall problem. But what it’s doing is showing what’s possible, and demonstrating what other bars around the world could be doing to be profitable while collectively making a real difference.”

In late 2021, Re launched its Never Wasted menu, which used food waste from local businesses in Sydney to create ingredients for cocktails and food. The other ingredients came from surplus fruit and vegetables in local markets with the aim of other venues following suit to reduce Sydney’s food waste by 80%.

While Re focuses on using up waste produce, Little Red Door has been a pioneer of the Farm to Glass model since 2020. In recent years, the bar has launched several menus which highlight partnerships with local producers – aiming to not only showcase the wealth of French ingredients, but change the mindset of cocktail creation.

The latest menu, Evergreen, which launches this year, once again puts the producers at the forefront of customers’ experiences at Little Red Door. One of the drinks, Pepper, uses peppers grown at Gonnegirls Farm in Normandy and the bar took Whiley to visit the producer during his trip to Paris. The farm was founded in 2019 by Claire Wills-Diquet and Gaelle Bonnieux and is specialising in a farming technique known as the no-till method. This involves a regular rotation of livestock on specific plots of land in order to regenerate the soil which had previously been over-farmed.

Wills-Diquet says: “One of the biggest releases of carbon into our atmosphere is the disruption of soil during farming. This is why the no-till method makes a lot of sense, because it’s all about nurturing the soil and keeping the carbon in the ground as much as possible. Our main aim is to create a profitable, small, diverse farm which regenerates our soil.”

On the farm, Wills-Diquet and her team have a dozen horses which they look after on behalf of local riders. Their main role in the process is to eat away the thick layer of grass and fertilise the soil. After a couple of weeks the horses are moved to a new patch and the farm’s 1,000 hens are let loose on the freshly mowed area left behind. The chickens, as well as producing eggs for the region, further fertilise the soil while simultaneously turning it gently with their feet, preparing it for vegetable production.

The process doesn’t use tractors or heavy machinery and therefore the amount of produce harvested per square metre is significantly higher than traditional commercial farms. The new menu at Little Red Door is working with lots of producers from across France as well as urban farms in Paris, all of which demonstrate a more responsible approach to growing or harvesting ingredients.

It was interesting to bring both Re and Little Red Door together. On the one hand Whiley’s Sydney venue is proving that a bar can make world-class drinks just by using existing waste produce, while Little Red Door is encouraging more positive farming techniques and highlighting the producers responsible for its cocktail ingredients.

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