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Doing Things Properly with Ozone Coffee

We are lucky enough to work with a lot of inspiring people and businesses in our role as tea partner, but the team at Ozone Coffee are right up there. Not only are they great people and an absolute pleasure to work with (lucky us), they are also a business that we are endlessly inspired by. From their eateries to their coffee sourcing and everything in between, they are passionate about doing right by both people and planet, and that passion isn’t just talk - it's action. The team go above and beyond to ensure that sustainability is at the forefront of everything they do, and most importantly they hold themselves accountable.

We had a chat with Sam Scott, the Head Chef of Ozone Coffee's London Eateries, about their circular kitchen, creating an innovative and delicious zero waste menu and what it means to do things properly in the Ozone kitchen and across the business. We sincerely hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting it together! 

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you wound up as Head Chef for Ozone Coffee? 

I grew up in Taranaki, New Zealand (where Ozone was started back in 1998) and was interested in cooking from a young age. My dad was a big influence on that—he’s a great cook and was often experimenting with new recipes at home; it was a dream he and I shared that I always wanted to pursue. 

I came to London for work experience in 2017 which didn’t end up panning out, but that’s where Ozone came in and it worked out so much better than I could’ve imagined. Our former Head Chef Joe O’Connell asked me to cover for someone, so I came to work with him for the day and then never left. Today, Joe is the Head Chef and Head of Sustainability for Ozone Coffee in New Zealand, and I'm the Head Chef for Ozone’s East London eateries in Shoreditch and London Fields. 
 
How long have you had an interest in zero waste and what were your first steps in bringing this to Ozone’s eateries? 

Sustainability has always been at the core of Ozone’s kitchen philosophy. Our menu and the way we operate is largely influenced by our Kiwi roots, where reducing and composting food waste has always been ingrained in the hospo scene and culture. Joe had a lot to do with bringing that to our London eateries and ensuring the way we cooked and designed our menu reflected that sustainability ethos. I learned a lot working under him about how we think about menu design, ways to create less waste and bring the most flavour and longevity from every ingredient. It’s just a part of who we are and how we operate, so it’s hard to imagine doing it any other way.  

Why does food waste matter and what’s the real impact? 

Restaurants in the UK produce almost 200,000 tonnes of food waste every year. It’s a business imperative and responsibility for chefs and restaurant owners to be aware of the impact we’re creating and how we can reduce our footprint. Food waste and unsustainable food production and supply chains create more greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate change in a big way. It damages the soil, the land and contributes to food scarcity in our local community and around the world.  

We’re not just reducing food waste at Ozone, but also trying to educate and inspire our diners and home chefs to be more aware of the decisions they make and how we can all be part of the change. I want to show people that well-designed menus like ours, and the local ingredients we use, can also be delicious, accessible and better for the planet and people.  

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‘Sustainability’ can be an incredibly broad term and has been used without much action by many (many) brands. What does being sustainable really mean to you and the team at Ozone and how are you holding yourselves accountable? 

It’s about doing the right thing as a business for our people and planet. It can be easier or cheaper to source ingredients that might not be as sustainable or nutritious, but that’s not what Ozone or I am about. Being sustainable isn’t just creating less waste, it’s working with ethical and local suppliers who share our ethos, and constantly trying to find new ways to improve. It’s using ingredients in creative ways (like pickling, smoking or fermenting whenever we can) to get the most flavour and nutrition onto our plates. And it’s about highlighting this approach with our team and our community so we can share what we’re doing and inspire people with their own choices.  

Ozone is also in the process of becoming a certified B Corp, which is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. It evaluates the impact we have on our people and our planet, critically looking at everything from the materials we use, the partners we work with, how we source our coffee or ship our orders, and much more. Whilst it’s a rigorous and lengthy processit’s one way that we’re holding ourselves accountable to and ensuring we meet the highest standards of sustainability. We’re hoping to achieve B Corp certification by the end of 2022. 

How have the eateries across Ozone adapted and changed over the years in terms of making positive environmental changes within the way you operate?  

Part of my job is to consistently push boundaries for how we innovate and try awesome new recipes or techniques that help us reduce waste or source more sustainable and local ingredients. I’m always encouraging the team to adapt that mindset and talking about why it’s important, or looking for new suppliers or ingredients that help us meet new goals.  

For example, smoked salmon is a staple on most brunch menus, but salmon being so popular means it’s quite overfished. We decided to switch to chalk stream trout a few years go, which is more sustainable and locally sourced as it’s line caught from day boats by our friends at Fin + Flounder. We worried our customers wouldn’t love the change, but it’s gone over incredibly well; people love it. We’ve also switched to meat that’s reared locally and comes from regenerative farms, and we use second selection produce to make sauces and pickles rather than let them go to a landfill. We also do things like use waste milk from our baristas to create ricotta or mill leftover sourdough back into flour to use in other dishes.  

What more could you (and us) be doing to reduce the impact and footprint of our waste? 

Our kitchen is sitting at less than 3% waste, which is awesome, and I’m always working on getting that number lower. Most of that comes from plate waste, which is composted locally and recycled to create green energy. Fish heads are also part of that 3% - let us know if you have any ideas for it—maybe you’ll see them on our menu soon!

As you know Doing Things Properly is something we work by, as well as talk about outwardly. What does ‘doing things properly’ mean for you, as head chef, across the Ozone site and personally? 

For me, doing things properly means diving headfirst into everything we do and giving it 100% effort. It’s making sure we start with a solid plan or idea in place before we put anything out there from Ozone. And it’s wanting to be better for my team or to try to inspire them in how we show up at work. Properly can be such a broad term, and there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there—what I try to do is just stay true to what we know at Ozone and how we want to come across for our community and partners. We will always put the planet and its people first, so in my book, that’s doing things properly.  

Finally, what are you most proud of when it comes to your efforts in betterment for Ozone? 

The way we think about sustainability and betterment at Ozone doesn’t just stop in the kitchen. It permeates every part of the business: from how we source coffee and work with ethical, responsible producers at origin who look after the land it grows on and the communities it supports; shipping our orders via local bike couriers when possible; using compostable and recyclable materials, or shredded wastepaper to pack our orders, and so much more. 

I’m proud that what we do is so simply woven into the fabric of who we are. It’s genuine, and we do it because we believe it’s an awesome responsibility for us as a business and for me as a chef. All of us who work at Ozone believe in and are committed to this, which is very cool—it goes back to striving for betterment and committing to that shared value as a team. 

I’m also proud to share what we do with Ozone’s community and get our customers on board with it. We talk a lot about our kitchen philosophy, and have told that story right on our menu. One of the things I love most is when you see people reading about our kitchen philosophy and how we work with suppliers and use local ingredients right on our menu, or telling us that they’ve learned something pretty cool and important just by heading into Ozone and having breakfast with us.

To try some of Sam's delicious dishes for yourself, head to either of their East London eateries for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You won't be disappointed. 

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