AMBER, THE LANDMARK MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONG KONG
SPREADING SUSTAINABILITY - CHAMPIONING SUSTAINABLE FINE DINING
Luxury and sustainability can go hand in hand
Combining Michelin stars with sustainability isn’t always an easy task – especially in a city known for its wealth of opulent fine dining options, where the world’s finest ingredients are often flown in without thought and where rare endangered species of seafood are in high demand.
In the Amber restaurant of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Operations and Food & Beverage Richard Ekkebus is committed to operating as sustainably as possible – a commitment often conflicted with traditional expectations of what a fine dining restaurant should be.
While meeting customer expectations around ingredient availability and accommodating the needs of operating within a larger hotel posed challenges to making changes, Richard was determined to realise his vision of combining luxury and sustainability. Implementing change in the face of such difficulties was slow going, but Richard's clear vision and resolve would not be deterred. He was committed to demonstrating that environmentally conscious practices could go hand in hand with providing a luxurious guest experience. Despite the hurdles, Richard persevered, determined to showcase that sustainability and luxury were not mutually exclusive.
As soon as the Food Made Good Standard was made available in Hong Kong in 2019, Richard was one of the first chefs in the city on board. Understanding its potential impact, he immediately threw his weight behind the Standard – the only accreditation to measure and report on sustainability within the hospitality industry.
Completing the FMG Standard empowered Richard and his team at Michelin-starred Amber with the first accurate analysis of their sustainability work from a holistic viewpoint, enabling them to truly understand and identify the areas of the business in which they could optimise their efforts.
Paving the way
Richard's participation in Food Made Good inspired other restauranteurs and chefs in Hong Kong. His leadership and success in aligning luxury hospitality with more sustainable food sourcing and operations helped to catalyse a broader transition towards environmentally friendly practices across the entire hotel, with both SOMM and MO Bar having achieved the Food Made Good Standard in 2021.
Richard’s commitment to ethical sourcing spread throughout the hotel, as did other practices such as removing single use plastic from the entire hotel. In fact, between 2020 and 2022:
- Amber’s score for supporting farmers increased by 10%. Their policy demands that ingredients are sourced to a high standard while simultaneously encouraging suppliers to invest back into their own local communities. Similarly, a commitment to purchase sustainable seafood led to a 7% improvement in the team’s score under that pillar.
- The restaurant improved its ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ policy by 27%. Ample work went into optimising how the restaurant handles all non-food waste to better align with global sustainability goals.
- Amber slashed its food waste even further, boosting its score by 26%. This was accomplished by enforcing a detailed, written food waste policy and ensuring that all staff members are well-trained in avoiding waste.
- The menus at Amber have a well-defined focus on healthy eating (based on a comprehensive written policy), while also catering for those with specific dietary needs.
- A heightened focus on providing delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes translated to a massive 28% rise in score, corroborating the success of this strategy. Sales of plant-forward options have soared as a result, indicating customer enthusiasm for the expanded plant-based offerings. Amber's commitment goes beyond the menu itself; profits from the restaurant's vegetarian tasting menu are donated to The Green Earth, a local charity promoting green energy consumption and zero waste.
- The restaurant is actively engaged with local and global charity groups, with a specific individual within the organisation responsible for managing Amber's charitable programs and partnerships. Efforts include fundraising and coordinating employee volunteer opportunities in addition to providing financial support to nonprofit causes.
A ripple effect
Using the Food Made Good Standard, the team at Amber drew up detailed action plans to ensure continuous improvement, understanding that, just as customer expectations of luxury hotels are constantly evolving, so too are expectations around sustainability.
The 18-month process to which Richard and his team committed resulted in a 13% increase in Amber’s overall score in the 2022 Food Made Good Standard, placing them firmly in the top-tier three-star category.
This also laid the groundwork for SOMM and MO Bar to gain three stars in their first audits, something of which Richard remains extremely proud. The ripple effect from Amber has spread through whole hotel, a perfect example of how interconnected sustainability within hospitality can be.
Towards a sustainable future
By ensuring that sustainability and luxury go hand in hand, Amber and the wider Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group are paving the way for this business model to become the norm, not the exception. As Richard says,
“We have been part of FMG for two audits now and have grown and structured our sustainability efforts through the audit, as well as the sharing of best practice with others in the Food Made Good network. With each audit,. we created an action plan to ensure we improved our efforts and structure. This has led to significantly better scores, and we will continue this approach to improve further on our efforts to work towards a more sustainable business model.”
With scores across all 10 points of the FMG Standard framework improving again in their 2022 certification, it’s clear that Richard’s commitment – and that of his team – is unwavering. We look forward to seeing more of this admirable work from them in the future.
Read more about Amber restaurant here. Ready for your own restaurant to step up to the sustainability plate? Sign up for the Food Made Good Standard today!
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