Earning the MICHELIN Green Star isn’t just about eco-conscious cooking ー it’s about displaying unparalleled dedication towards a consistently sustainable approach. This distinction that acknowledges the provenance of the ingredients and commitment to zero-waste was granted to contemporary dining destination LOWE in the MICHELIN Guide Dubai 2022 and 2023.
An unpretentious eatery that challenges the norms of a busy kitchen, LOWE sets an example in finding planet-friendly alternatives despite hurdles along the way.
Nestled off the beaten track in Al Barari, the effortlessly cool concept kitchen has prioritised sustainability as a fundamental aspect of its identity since its 2019 inception. Today, the restaurant actively endeavors to enhance its practices even further, led by chef Ali Shiddique Samsi.
Born and raised in Singapore, chef Ali and his family lived a modest life. Even so, his father would insist on dining out and taking the family to a new cuisine each time. This fusion of family and food is where chef Ali’s love affair with cooking began. After moving to Dubai and working on the opening of one MICHELIN star 11 Woodfire, he finally joined team LOWE. Growing up in an environment where wastage was highly frowned upon, chef Ali is now proud to leverage his position for positive change.
“I have been working in kitchens for more than a decade and see the amount of food products and trimmings that are being discarded - some just for looking 'ugly,” he says.
The philosophy at LOWE is a collective one: a drive from the entire team of wanting to leave the world a better place. This means taking a full circle approach is the only way forward. First and foremost, local and regional produce is prioritised as much as possible. “There are very few items on our menu where we source from outside the region,” Ali says, “and we insist on [suppliers] using biodegradable packaging.”
As for the challenge of reducing food waste, innovation and creativity is the only way to find a solution, says Ali. Whether it’s transforming onion trimmings into a smokey onion powder garnish, or adding the unused parts of sustainable oyster mushrooms to infuse stock, no element goes unused. Even the farmer who supplies LOWE’s mushrooms uses spent coffee beans sourced from around the UAE to help grow his crops. “I can proudly say that as of now, LOWE produces very little waste product,” Ali says.
Sustainability isn’t exclusive to the kitchen either. Any ingredients that can’t be whipped into another dish ー for example stock bones or fruit rinds ー go straight to the compost transforming into rich fertilizer for the LOWE garden. The team also cook with wood fire to minimise energy consumption and even close the restaurant on Mondays and Tuesdays in a bid to strategically reserve power.
There’s one more aspect often overlooked when discussing our environments, says Ali, and that’s the wellbeing of the team. “We try our very best to ensure that each of our team members have a good work-life balance - that is another reason we are closed for two days of the week,” he says. After all, a thriving kitchen cannot function effectively on discontented staff.
With plenty of restaurants in the UAE still falling short on eco-friendly cuisine, we asked Restaurant Manager Zachary Roy how others might embark on their journey into sustainable practices. “I think there’s a stigma attached to sustainability that it has to be a grand gesture in order to make a difference,” he says, “but it’s about 100 little steps and not always about the one giant leap.”