The 2021 edition of the MICHELIN Guide Great Britain & Ireland saw the introduction of a new award: the Michelin Green Star. This distinction highlights restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices – and who act as role models to us all.
In its first year, the Michelin Green Star has been awarded to 23 restaurants. Over the coming weeks, we will explore what some of them are doing behind the scenes. This week we focus on River Cottage Kitchen in Axminster.
Owned by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, this shabby-chic, all-day eatery opens in the morning for breakfast and coffee and then morphs into more of a bistro-style venue towards the evening. The menu changes with the seasons and the focus is on organic, plant-based dishes, with some of the produce coming from their nearby organic farm.
We caught up with Head Chef Gelf Alderson who told us more about how they operate.
Although it’s a difficult time, sustainability remains at the top of our agenda. It's a word often bandied around without true thought being attributed to its meaning, but I like to break it down into different sections:
Sustainability of our business
Core to this is treating our staff in a sustainable manner. We make sure their working hours are reasonable (none of our staff work over 48hrs and we ensure holidays are taken throughout the year); they are fed well at work; and they are paid the best wage the business can support, with 100% of tips being shared.
We have a commitment to use only organic meat, dairy and eggs as standard, and as much organic veg as possible. Our fish is sustainable: we only use rod and line caught fish rated 1-3 on the MCS website, and almost all of it comes from the local fleet in Lyme Regis. We never use ingredients that are transported by air.
We have eliminated as much single use plastic from our business as possible, including removing cling film from the kitchen and getting milk delivered in metal churns. Our waste is initially split by us and then again off-site, to ensure that the maximum amount of recycling can take place.
We work closely with all of our suppliers to keep innovating and we do as much as possible to ensure a food future in the UK through our on-going campaigns spearheaded by Hugh.
Here are extracts of some of their policies…
• We work with our suppliers to remove single-use packaging from deliveries and encourage them to bring products in reusable containers. We no longer accept deliveries in polystyrene.
• Vegetables are delivered in crates and milk comes in metal churns
• We buy refills for soap/cleaning products and return larger bottles to be reused
• We work to reduce or eliminate the need for vacuum packing in our kitchens and food deliveries
Day to Day:
• All drinks bottles are glass
• We do not supply takeaway coffee cups. We encourage guests to bring their own reusable cup and we also sell a sustainable bamboo cup.
• We are registered with City to Sea’s Refill scheme, meaning anyone can drop in and get their water bottle refilled
We separate all waste to ensure everything that can be recycled goes into the correct channel. At our farm HQ, all raw food waste goes into our own compost. Our cooked food waste is processed by a local anaerobic digestion plant.
We encourage guests to take leftovers home in our recyclable boxes.
River Cottage HQ was built using a holistic approach and was designed to be a low carbon, low energy and sustainable. The 1.5 acre farm has organic certification and is managed under the Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship. These schemes, run by Natural England, are designed to encourage food producers to preserve natural habitats and biodiversity.
Green Stars are identified by a new green sustainability symbol and details of their practices are outlined in their online entry. Click here for all Michelin Green Stars in the UK/Republic of Ireland.
For 2021, the guide is published in digital format only, both online (UK and Republic of Ireland) and via the iOS app.