Five Minutes With | Skye Gyngell

Image: Amber Rowlands

The Australian-born chef and owner of London restaurant Spring talks to Jessica Jonzen about her crusade against plastic

YOU’VE COMMITTED TO SPRING BEING SINGLE-USE PLASTIC FREE BY 2019. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
I heard a woman called Sian Sutherland, the co-founder of A Plastic Planet, speak at an event last year. I was appalled and a bit ashamed that I didn’t really know what was going on with plastic waste. I watched a film called A Plastic Ocean and there’s a scene where they found over 40 bits of plastic in the tummy of a dead baby seabird. I got Sian to come in to Spring and talk to the team, and we brainstormed ideas as to what we could do as a restaurant.

HOW EASY HAS IT BEEN TO STOP USING SINGLE-USE PLASTIC IN A BUSY RESTAURANT?
We worked out that we’d used 3,600km of cling film every year since we opened in 2014, so we just went cold turkey. We bought lids for all our pans and we also use a beautiful product called Bee’s Wrap, which is made from beeswax. We got rid of plastic straws and replaced the branded handwash in the bathrooms with ceramic dispensers. The only thing we’ve really been looking to find an alternative solution for is black plastic bags. I think we’ve done really well. We’ve enjoyed it and we feel good about ourselves that we’ve done it.

AFTER WINNING A MICHELIN STAR AT PETERSHAM NURSERIES, YOU LEFT TO SET UP SPRING. WHAT WERE THE FOUNDING PRINCIPLES YOU WANTED YOUR OWN RESTAURANT TO HAVE?
I absolutely loved being at Petersham but I felt that I’d done everything I could there. When I was planning Spring, I set out to find one farm who would supply all of our fruit and vegetables and found Fern Verrow, a biodynamic farm in Herefordshire run by Jane Scotter. Knowing that we are contributing to healthy soil somewhere in the world means a lot to me. Having a very happy ‘back of house’ in the business is also really important. ‘Success’ means something to me today to what it did maybe 15 years ago.

SPRING IS A REAL CELEBRATION OF THE FEMININE – MOST OF YOUR CHEFS ARE WOMEN…
I have 22 chefs and 14 or 15 are women. I don’t like to say ‘I just want women in the kitchen’ – it’s really nice to have a balance.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
I am involved in the food for a hotel called Heckfield Place in Hampshire that’s opening in September. It’s got a 400-acre farm and we’re in the process of turning it into a biodynamic farm with Jane Scotter. I didn’t expect to get involved with plastics this year; it shows that anything can happen.

springrestaurant.co.uk

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