By Tom Tanner

There aren’t too many chefs or restaurateurs boasting a fine-dining restaurant, beachside café and a pizzeria in their portfolio. Where Tim Bouget and his trio of ODE-truefood sites really stand out from the crowd, is that they have all blazed a sustainable trail ever since their first service.

Sustainability was literally built into café-ODE. Almost all the building materials were recycled, solar energy equipment providing the energy and a sedum roof fitted to attract local wildlife.

From day one, Tim has chosen liberally from the luxurious larder that his south Devon location is fortunate enough to enjoy. And the hand-picked network of artisan producers and farmers enjoy pride of place on ODE’s website, given the prominence the provenance deserves. Two years after opening the café, Tim heard that the longstanding local brewery was to close. He bought up all the equipment – lock, stock and barrel – and moved it on site at the café. So, customers can now enjoy pints from Two Beach Brewing Company and see it being made.

All of this and much more besides contributed to ODE’s hat trick of Sustainable Restaurant of the Year awards from 2012-14.

Four years on, and ODE’s appetite for making a positive difference shows no signs of abating. In fact, if anything, it’s extending well beyond the four walls of its three sites now. It’s that passion for maximising its potential for making a positive impact on the food system, enabling customers to use the power of their appetites wisely and mobilising a network of local businesses that helped ODE to its latest, richly deserved accolade.

The judges of the National Restaurant Awards’ Sustainable Restaurant Award were won over by this small business’ desire for tackling the issue of the moment – plastic packaging – and running with it, recruiting customers, neighbouring restaurants, suppliers and local children in their environmental crusade.

Tim and his team devised a plan to engage all these different groups, finding creative ways of incentivising them. Customers who participated in a beach cleaning scheme received a free coffee for every bucket they filled. Then they engaged children from the local primary school to create a sculpture using the waste.

A long-term advocate of ditching single-use plastic, but conscious that alternatives can be out of the price range of some small businesses, Tim established a local buying group. Now all the village’s cafés, pubs and shops have switched to bio-plastics. Having taken single-use plastic out of the village, he switched his attention to the local food festival – Taste of the Teign. It hasn’t stopped there. Through his role as a director of the local tourist board Tim also has managed to extend the discounted rate on bio-plastics for 300 businesses in the region.

ODE-truefood has well and truly demonstrated that a restaurant business, no matter how small and regardless of its location, can show people what a better food system can look like, both on the plate and beyond. Twelve years on from that first service, ODE is well and truly succeeding in leading as well as feeding.