Design and Dine: Inside WantedDesign Manhattan’s Zero Waste Bistro

The bistro blends sustainable design with a thought-provoking tasting menu.

Many individuals, companies, cities and government leaders are pushing forward with zero waste initiatives and goals. And to help encourage those in the architecture and design industry to get on board, the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York teamed with Helsinki, Finland-based Restaurant Nolla to create Zero Waste Bistro for WantedDesign Manhattan, which is part of NYCxDESIGN.

“It’s time to rethink the way we live, the way we eat and the materials we use,” said Kaarina Gould, executive director of the Finnish Cultural Institute, in a statement. “Our seas are filled with plastic waste. In the U.S. alone, over 58 billion disposable cups are discarded and sent to landfills every year. What if all of those cups were reusable, compostable or recyclable? What if our everyday packaging was made of plastic-free materials, reducing plastic pollution and toxic microplastics in our soil and water supply. What if we collectively committed to only buying products that we love and that will last a lifetime? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves as a society. With Zero Waste Bistro, we’re proposing a future that reduces waste and helps to regenerate our natural environment, making it livable for generations to come; a future that’s already here if we make the right choices.”

The thought-provoking four-day laboratory of food and design, which was co-curated by Finnish designers Harri Koskinen and Linda Bergroth, explores the themes of circular economy, new material innovations and sustainable design and introduces the food philosophy of Restaurant Nolla, the first zero waste restaurant in the Nordic region.

Before founding Restaurant Nolla this spring, chefs Luka Balac, Carlos Henriques and Albert Franch Sunyer worked at Michelin-starred establishments in Helsinki and beyond, constantly implementing ideas that could make the restaurant industry healthier for the planet. The average restaurant produces more than a ton of waste every week, and by developing a circular economy and following the simple philosophy of refusing, reducing, reusing and recycling, the Nolla chefs are working to achieve an efficient and effective zero waste model.

At Zero Waste Bistro in New York, the chefs are presenting tasting menus for breakfast, brunch and lunch using local ingredients.

“Our dishes at Zero Waste Bistro in New York will be comprised of local and organic ingredients as well as commonly overlooked byproducts of our food system. With a strong focus on sustainability, our menu has emerged from creative thinking and the desire to produce something delicious and authentic out of local ingredients that are often ignored,” said Balac in a statement.

Waste360 Editorial Director Mallory Szczepanski dined in the bistro for lunch on May 21. The tasting menu included bread; green asparagus with sunflower seeds, green romesco and smoked white fish; oyster mushrooms with doenjang miso and spent grain crumble; shrimp crudo with radish and amaranth; black sea bass with white sweet potato and burned ramson butter sauce; and cocoa husk ice cream with rhubarb and burned chocolate.

The vegetables and herbs were provided by local farms Lanis and Neversink, the mushrooms were provided by Small Hold in Brooklyn, the dairy products were from Ronny Brook Farm, the fish and shellfish were from local and sustainable fisheries, the chocolate and cocoa husks came from Mast Brothers and the spent grain was provided by Other Half Brewery.

The bistro was constructed using Durat surfaces and ReWall building materials. The Durat surfaces are completely recyclable and made from recycled plastics, and the ReWall building materials are made entirely from upcycled packaging and industrial waste. The interior of the space, which was created by Linda Bergroth in collaboration with Finnish Design Shop, is outfitted with tableware and furniture from Iittala and Artek that are designed to last for decades.

The bistro also utilizes Sulapac’s biodegradable packaging made from renewable raw materials and recyclable takeaway cups made by Finnish company Kotkamills. The cups feature a water-based dispersion barrier called ISLA Duo instead of a plastic liner.

“I’ve created the dining area as a space within a space, using all sustainable materials,” said Bergroth in a statement. “The design is like an installation that functions both as a restaurant space and a platform for talks and debate.”

In addition to the unique dining opportunities, the bistro will host workshops and talks on topics such as healthy materials, the circular economy and zero waste fashion.

WantedDesign Manhattan is open at the Terminal Stores in Chelsea through Tuesday, May 22.

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