Respect for the ingredients – one of the most important things at À L’aise Restaurant

Restaurant no-shows are a well-known problem in today’s industry. Ulrik Jepsen, the Head chef at the Norwegian restaurant À L’aise, explains how they work with food waste and the no-show issue as a small, busy, gourmet restaurant.

In February 2017, a little oasis of classic French fine dining opened in Oslo. The restaurant À L’aise, since it’s opening, has received rave reviews from food critics in Norway and beyond while earning a plate award in the Michelin guide.

Head chef and owner, Ulrik Jepsen, has built his career working in high-profile restaurants, both in Denmark where he’s initially from, Norway and the United Kingdom.

A natural part of the cooking process

Ulrik explains that minimizing food waste has always have been a fundamental part of the process in the kitchen at all the restaurants he has contributed too.

“We work hard to find the freshest ingredients possible, so we actively try to use all of these items in our kitchen. This practice has always been a natural thought in my mindset, and it has always been like that at every restaurant I have worked for, regardless of how many stars they’ve received.”

Although À L’aise is a fine dining restaurant where you don’t necessarily use the whole product on the same plate, there is always a place to use the leftovers.

“If you cut a tomato to look like a square, you have the potential of wasting 30% of that tomato. That’s why it’s crucial for us to use the entire product. It’s easy; you can use the extra trimmings in a sauce, a puree, dehydrate it, and so on.”

“We’re certainly not a ‘nose to tail’ place, but we always make sure to use what we have, with respect for the products and the producers/farmers. It’s very rare that something goes in the trash bin”.

“Food waste management is not something we do because it’s a trendy topic, but because we want to respect those whom we purchase our commodities from, Ulrik continues.”

The struggle with no-shows

Even though the chefs at the restaurant do their best to prevent food waste, there are also issues that are out of their control.

When guests fail to show up for their booking, it directly influences and affects the amount of food that goes in the trash.

“We have 35-40 seats in our restaurant; it instantly impacts our day when a guest decides not to let us know beforehand that they won’t be joining us. We plan our cooking according to our reservations, so of course, it is annoying and problematic when guests don’t respect this.”

“It’s a problem for restaurants all over the world and guests don’t understand how much work and preparation that goes into the final dish that reaches the table.”

He compares it to hotels.

“If you have booked a hotel room, you know that people have worked hard to make everything ready for you. They’ve cleaned, made the bed, put out little soaps, and so on. It is the same thing at restaurants. It’s not only about the gastronomy, but also everything else around it. We have pressed tablecloths, lit candles, folded silk napkins, and a lot of other preparations. It is the same thing, but people don’t have the same awareness”.

Jepsen explains that they’ve started to include text in the booking form that tells the customers that they will be charged 1000 NOK if they fail to show up for their table.

“That has helped a bit, but the issue is still present, unfortunately,” he says.

With any luck, Ulrik Jepsen can continue to help create awareness for guests all around the world so that this issue can be minimized for all restaurants.

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