Henri Turra: How can we create sustainable food services?

Henri Turra: How can we create sustainable food services?

Henri Turra: How can we create sustainable food services?

Henri Turra: How can we create sustainable food services?

Acknowledgement of Country: This interview was conducted on Gadigal Country. We pay our respects to the traditional custodians of this land, past, present and emerging. We recognise their deep connection to the land and their unique cultural heritage, which continues to enrich our shared community.

Henri Turra is the driving force behind Radish Events, Sydney's most forward-thinking event catering company. Henri has helped Radish Events achieve B Corp recertification, carbon neutrality, and reduce all waste to less than 5% sent to landfill. Henri's dedication extends to promoting ethical practices in hospitality.

In this interview, Henri discusses how food services can be circular, Radish Events' journey to zero waste, and the financial challenges when it comes to sustainability. He also shares tips and tricks you can use to reduce food waste at any workplace.

How do you define circularity in your work?

For us, circularity means taking responsibility for the resources we use. This ensures we minimise waste and consider the impact of our actions on the world. There are a few aspects to this.

  • Reduce food waste. We produce 7.6 million tonnes of food waste in Australia every year (Oz Harvest). Our industry significantly contributes to this problem. At Radish Events, we reduce our food waste by using 'circular menus', educating our clients to avoid over-catering, providing take-home options at events and ensuring any food scraps are composted.

  • Reuse packaging. We have a return system with suppliers to reduce single-use packaging. Our eggs and falafels come in reusable containers. We use ReCo for our dishwasher powder. It took us a while to work out the system with our suppliers. It's easier when a supplier shares the same passion. There's still quite a big challenge for dry foods like rices, spices, grains and flour. We could use the bulk-buy shops, but from a small business perspective they are usually too expensive or minimum orders are too high for wholesale prices.

  • Ethical sourcing and seasonality. We only use fresh local produce based on seasons. We work with suppliers who share our values to source high-quality food that is produced sustainably and ethically. But we even go a step further—for example, we work with Two Hands to source sustainable fish, but also making sure they are traceable.
Fish traceability: Buying meat comes with clarity about the origins, but with fish it's a bit trickier.  There are two companies who are working on creating transparency in fishing. GoodFish is a sustainable seafood guide. Two Hands uses a blockchain technology to trace the fish back to its origin. With a QR code, we can follow its journey from the catch to plate. 
  • Carbon neutrality. We offset 100% of our carbon emissions, and we’re working towards reducing our carbon emissions at the source. We do this by using local produce as much as possible, offering delicious plant-based dishes, sourcing pasture-raised beef from farmers who use holistic farming practices. It's also on our to-do list to swap our van for an EV.

  • Community wellbeing. In the hostility sector, a lot of inspiring, passionate professionals are underpaid and overworked. We make sure that we're building a happy team and taking care of our staff. We hope that we can set a good example for other businesses to adopt similar practices too.

How did your journey to zero waste start? What's the biggest challenge you're facing?

Daniel Lewinsky started the company as 'Dan the Man Cooking' in 2011. Ilana Cooper joined shortly after and brought a zero-waste vision into the company. I joined in 2017, and took over in 2020. Its vision and mission really resonate with me.

From the beginning, the company has been striving to be a force for good. Ilana drove the sustainability efforts at the time. We achieved B Corp certification in 2017, and went through countless workshops to reduce our waste streams, one by one.

Over time, we learned that setting a target of being 100% zero waste isn't entirely realistic. That's why now we describe it as a journey. Everything is in flux, from suppliers to packaging solutions. We must continually adapt and think innovatively.

The biggest challenge is maintaining consistency. Finding a solution for a specific waste stream doesn't mean it's resolved forever. For example, not long ago we recycled our soft plastics with REDcycle, but found ourselves back at square one after the service got paused. We try to address those issues all the time as circumstances change.

How do you minimise waste in the kitchen and events?

Waste exists at almost every stage, so we have to act on all fronts. It starts with preventing waste, by educating our clients on how much food they actually need .

Then we work with a circular menu. We use as much as we can from each different ingredient. It's not just about using the offcuts, it's about turning them into a delicious dish that can stand on its own.

Examples from our circular menu include:

  • Ōra King salmon: Different bits are turned into different dishes, from standard loin cuts to the head and belly being smoked in-house to become a rillette, which is then served as a canapé.
  • Chimichurri: Labelled as 'upcycled herb chimichurri', it's made primarily from leftover herbs.
  • Dehydrated vegetable powder: We dehydrate the leftover veggies and ground them into a powder for our tapioca crisps.

Unused food waste is composted at a local composting facility. During events, we also have compostable bin bags to collect all the plate remnants. We also have compostable containers for people to take leftovers home.

What are the positive impacts as a result of these practices? How do you measure them?

In terms of measuring impact, our primary goal is reducing food waste. This has two main effects. Firstly, we don't send food waste to landfills. Food waste emits methane gas, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. We have started measuring this by simply weighing everything that comes into our kitchen, and then also weighing each bin before collection (organics, recycling, landfill, soft plastics, paper). We’re hoping to collect 6 months of data by December 2023, and see exactly how much we still need to work on. It’s a bit of a tedious process, but well worth the time.

Alongside this, we also measure and offset our carbon emissions. This is done via a partner who helps us estimate our annual CO2e, split into scopes 1, 2 and 3, and then offset it to become carbon neutral. We’re also working on reducing our current emissions by using local suppliers and a very rigid procurement guide, which prioritises sustainable and ethical practices unique to each category (meat, fish, poultry, veg, etc). 

How can we overcome financial challenges in achieving sustainability? 

Wasted food equals lost profits. There is a financial incentive to use as much as possible of any ingredient, just as there are savings in fine tuning your portions. People think it's more cost effective to throw things away, but you can save money - if you give more attention, skill and creativity to find value.

However, in a more general sense, it’s in fact more expensive to run a business in this way. We have to dedicate resources, time, energy and money to get things right. What we do is still very niche, because that's not how the supply chain operates. It’s a structural challenge. The business needs to be committed to making a change in order to stick with the more expensive running costs. The upside is that if you are able to translate this into value for your clients, you will also be able to price accordingly. 

Therefore, an important step for us is educating our clients about why we do things, and why we ask them to pay a little extra. 

The good news is we've seen a shift in clients choosing us primarily for our sustainable practices. It's still not the majority, but it is growing. Corporate clients now engage with us due to their ESG targets, for example. 

This is why we believe in paving the way for other companies to follow. If more of us collaborate to initiate change, we can work together to find new solutions, which will make sustainability a lot easier to achieve. 

What are your top 3 tips to reduce waste in commercial kitchens?

Certainly. Solutions should be feasible in a commercial setting. They're more about changing habits than implementing technical, complex solutions.

  1. Find creative ways to use every part of an ingredient. It reduces food waste, but also positions your brand uniquely.

  2. Get a compost bin. It's easy to set up. It's slightly pricier than a landfill, but the cost isn't excessive. Paired with food waste initiatives, it could pay for itself. It's a necessary step we should embrace.

  3. Showcase your efforts. Highlight them as a testament to skill, creativity and uniqueness. This will attract more loyal customers.

These 3 strategies are straightforward to implement. They offer significant impact before delving into more intricate challenges.

What are your top 3 tips to reduce waste at events?

Firstly, get your quantities right. There's a tendency to over-cater, and culturally we prefer abundance and the appearance of being generous. Being led by a caterer you trust is the best way to avoid this, as we have lots of experience with event flow, types of crowds, length of the runsheet, etc. 

Secondly, ask for RSVPs. Food waste happens at events that cater for more guests than those who actually show up. By obtaining a clearer estimate of attendees and even a second confirmation, you can avoid unexpected surpluses.

Lastly, prepare for leftovers. Even with careful planning and RSVPs, unforeseen circumstances can lead to excess food. Be proactive in deciding what to do with the remaining dishes. Repurpose them, donate them to community organisations or take them home.

Another tip is opting for reusable packaging over single-use, even if it's compostable. We've been using reusable corn husk bowls for our events for years. We're also exploring other serveware made from recycled materials that are better for the environment and also look cool.

Learn more
radishevents.com.au

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This interview is part of ReCo Circular Sydney 2023 Series, supported by the City of Sydney Knowledge Exchange Sponsorship program. Explore more free content at: reco.net.au/circular-sydney

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Author

Interviewed by Danling Xiao. Edited by Adam Matthews.

Adam Matthews is driven by a deep-rooted passion for environmental protection and sustainability. He’s currently pursuing a masters degree in environmental management and sustainability. Connect with Adam on Linkedin.  

Danling is the co-founder of ReCo and creative director of reco.digital. Danling has an unwavering passion for creativity, spirituality and the pursuit of positive change in the world. Connect with Danling on Linkedin.

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