COPENHAGEN: The Michelin Guide has introduced a new emblem that aims to showcase sustainable restaurants. But chef Christian F. Puglisi, of restaurant Relae, in Copenhagen, is not impressed. The Italian chef has accused the guide of just picking the phone to determine whether a restaurant is sustainable or not. “It is disrespectful towards the ones in this industry taking the current issues seriously. It is hurting the credibility of our restaurant scene to announce leaders to be ‘setting the standard for the rest of the world to follow”.
“There is one word for this practice and this is greenwashing,” he said.
Michelin has introduced the Green emblem from the announcement of the Michelin stars in France. Over 50 restaurants in France have received the Green clover. In the Nordic countries, 26 restaurants have made the grade.
Puglisi said that at first he thought that this initiative was very interesting. But then he asked himself, how did we end there?
“I tried to rewind to whatever kind of investigation we had been a part of. How did the Michelin Guide know about our sustainable practices. How did we qualify for this fabulous new sustainability emblem? Or did we all get lucky by picking up a five clover?”
He said that he remembered a phone conversation where someone called the restaurant and literally asked “so are you sustainable, yes? Tell me how? Ok thank you.”
He lamented the fact that there was no audit, no questionnaire, no effort to ask critical questions of any type. “Just a phone call gives you the right to display a clover next to our Michelin star. Like 10 other restaurants in Denmark. Like 26 other restaurants in Scandinavia. Like 50 in France.”
Puglisi said he does not believe his restaurant is entirely sustainable. “We do serve meat (which is not sustainable per se), we do emit CO2, we produce waste,we heat the restaurant in winter, we do use clingfilm even though we are phasing it out) and we do sometimes travel for cooking dinners and demos.”
He said that at Relae they have worked into making up for these issues by working eclusively with organically certified produce since 2014, they limit waste and have established a farm to find answers to some of these questions. “We have been audited and have auto-audited ourselves for years trying to improve in all aspects and dimensions. I believe that being sustainable is a state of mind, a way of seeing the world with a deep sense of responsibility. I have always felt that this approach is hardly compatible with the traditional world of fine dining which I never wanted Relae to be part of.”
Puglisi said that what Michelin has done over the years goes counter to sustainability. “Continuity, standardisation, perfection do not go hand in hand with reducing waste and sourcing natural and organic produce. The idea of perfection reduces the most beautiful cuts of meat to ridiculous proportions. The excessive manipulation and a wasteful, and in my taste, distasteful, approach to cooking is at the very core of the fine dining that Michelin represetns. It is therefore utterly and totally unacceptable to think a phone call is enough. It’s a type of ridiculizing of our industry by the same power structure that has been praising the opposite practices for many decades.”
He said that the fact that the Michelin Guide could wake up to take responsibility for sustainable practices could be a dream come true. “But what Michelin has done just does not cut it,” he said.