Sustainable Gastronomy 22 April 2024

Shining a Light on Every Corner of the Community

From a collaborative community growing space on the roof of a car park to children's charity projects and craft workshops, this Stockport restaurant has it all

Few restaurants are quite as committed to sustainability as Michelin Green Star Where The Light Gets In (WTLGI). This loft-style restaurant features a no-choice menu, a community garden and residencies exploring the dynamic between humans and food. Whereas most spots are dipping their toe in eco-friendly waters, Where The Light Gets In seeks to challenge convention by diving right in. Since their opening in October 2017, Chef-Owner Sam Buckley and Creative Director Jacob Timms have made it their mission. “It’s at the heart of everything that we do," says Buckley, with Timms adding, “It’s always been the starting point for us, rather than something that we work to achieve.” Seven years on, and the duo have not only changed the restaurant industry, they've pushed it forward.

“It started with making sure we weren’t using plastics in the delivery process, and finding the best suppliers and the best farmers around," explains Timms. "We were either going for the right option to begin with, or we wouldn’t do it at all." That steadfastness and conviction led to long-term relationships with producers that still exist today. "[It's how Sam] built his relationships... it’s a long process that ultimately led to us having a community garden.”

Dubbed 'The Landing', this collaborative community growing space was designed by WTLGI and the Manchester Urban Diggers, and provides produce for both the restaurant’s no-choice menu and the local community. “It’s an oasis,” adds Timms. “We’ve had wildlife reintroduced to what would otherwise be a concrete space." Their efforts have also benefited the children of Stockport.

Working with local charity Starting Point, The Landing allows kids to connect with their environment and other people, and to learn how they can improve and effect change with minimal effort. “We do a little bit of cooking and growing workshops with them – it shows them the amazing things that you can do and plants that seed in their mind that growing can actually be really fun.”

Having a no-choice menu cuts down on food waste, but poses other challenges for the restaurant. “The Hunger Gap is always the worst,” explains Timms, referring to the winter months where cold winds, harsh temperatures and inclement weather affect produce and supplies. For a restaurant reliant upon daily produce, it can be devastating.

However, they've found solutions, including working with butchers who practise whole animal butchery (the process of utilising the entire animal for meat), as well as fishmen who veer off for daily catches, yielding minimal environmental impact. "That sort of responsive cooking can be limiting, but actually breeds creativity," adds Timms. "If we get squid instead of fish one day, we will do, say, barbecued squid and mushroom with barley porridge.”

Working with external partners, WTLGI also hosts residencies designed to stir debate and collaboration. “It’s about how to work with food and byproducts in a creative way,” adds Timms. “It’s changing the way we look at natural materials.” Some highlights from their programming include workshops with Ikebana (the ancient Japanese art of arranging flowers) Master Junko Popham, communal felting sessions with shepherd Joanne Wood and artist Kathryn Wood, and even knife making. “We’ve got a butter making course where we’ll also be whittling knives carved out of wood,” Timms adds. “So you’ll have butter and a knife that you can take home and you’ll have learned how to make butter.”

For Timms though, creativity still remains the most enjoyable component. Excess oyster shells and ash from the barbecue? The team turn it into pottery used to serve oysters. “Our next project is using leftover bones,” adds Timms. Educating their consumers through innovation is what drives the team.

“It’s about affecting people down the chain," adds Timms. "People who can’t necessarily afford it can come in and learn a skill that they can share with other people." Hosting volunteer sessions every Friday at The Landing, WTLGI is hopeful for a greener future. "If you just make them think a little bit more sustainably whilst having fun, then I think we’re doing a good job.”

Love all things Michelin?
Sign up to our newsletter to hear from the Michelin Inspectors
Get the Guide on the go with the free app
Set up an account to create lists & manage bookings.

Interview by Kevin Chau

Sustainable Gastronomy

Keep Exploring - Stories we think you will enjoy reading