Relæ chef and founder Christian Puglisi explains why winning awards is inspiration not cause for complacency.
Most of us enjoy recognition for our efforts. Especially when we feel we’ve gone those extra miles to ‘make a difference’ as the expression goes. 2015 was a big one for Relæ, and we certainly did get all the attention and recognition that we could possibly dream of.
In the year of our 5 year’s anniversary celebration, we crossed the magic line and entered the group of 50 best restaurants of the wold as #45 on San Pellegrino’s influential list. This is certainly a major thing in itself. However, on top of that, and at the same event, we were honoured by the Sustainable Restaurant Award 2015.
For a restaurant like ours, which analyses every action with ‘sustainability glasses’, and values the ethics and the production methods of the raw materials we use as highly as the quality of the product itself, it is the ultimate recognition to be celebrated not only for our gastronomy and style of restaurant, but also for the way we think and work in every aspect of our daily business.
It does provide (carbon free) fuel to our fire and keeps us carrying on in the direction we hold. This journey is a hard but rewarding one full of self-selected ‘obstructions’. New chef students find themselves having to separate garbage and joining a team that are instructed to pester us by spending time (and sometimes money) looking for sustainable alternatives in any matter of our daily routines. The reactions vary, but mostly it doesn’t take long for newcomers to adapt to – indeed to adopt – the standards of our daily ‘obstructions’ out of pure reason. It simply makes sense. Rewardingly, we see that people increasingly seek to work at Relæ to learn, be inspired, and even take part in this very approach to the restaurant operations in the first place.
It inspires us to keep looking ahead. The driving force is the constant search for new levers to turn, and to make clever, creative solutions add up with eventful gastronomy. In 2015, we’ve successfully experimented with exciting things like bringing food scraps back to our local chicken and egg producer, and implementing the collection and sorting of wine slops to make ‘recycled’ vinegar a regular (and lab tested) part of our basics in the kitchen.
So, our natural next step is to look at the supply chain and the products themselves to see where and how we can influence these as much as possible – for the sake of creativity and quality, and working towards more circular practices. We’re way into a promising collaboration between farmers, organic institutions and even politicians in a municipality close to Copenhagen. We’ve been screening spread sheets of tonnage numbers and purveyor invoices to finally decide what little veggies will lead the way as brave pioneers in the next chapter of our pursuit towards sustainability.
So, how about that ‘making a difference’? Receiving the Sustainable Restaurant Award last year was a very important proof to us that, even as a small restaurant in a small country, insisting to do things the way we think is right, we actually do make a difference. Not by playing heroes but by opening the window of opportunity a tiny bit more and making our guests and the industry alike look into what we believe is a giant warehouse of inspirations and possibilities of how to change habits and look up and take part in what we all have to do: Work together for a future of healthy, and self-sustaining life through smart and quality-driven actions.