February 8, 2017

Turning surplus food into gourmet meals

Restaurant Loop

About the author

Johanna Kohvakka

The founder of From Waste to Taste -project

Restaurant Loop

Location: Lapinlahdentie 1, 00180 Helsinki
Open: Mon-Sun 11.00-15.00

Food waste doesn’t sound too glamorous, huh? Well, get ready to be surprised! Restaurant Loop is Finland’s first waste food restaurant, serving delicious dishes made from ingredients that would be wasted otherwise. This means creative chefs developing daily a new menu based on ingredients that are at hand. In addition to great taste the focus is on presentation too. Vegetables too ‘’ugly’’ for customers to buy are given a new glorious life.

Tackling climate change through waste food

The story of Restaurant Loop began in May 2015 when Johanna Kohvakka – the founder of From Waste to Taste -project –  was organizing a waste food event as a volunteer.

– We were collecting food from supermarkets, and one of the store owners said to me: “You should organize yourselves better, I just threw two pallets of food into the garbage”.  This is when I started to do some research on the matter, Kohvakka says.

According to the Natural Resources Institute of Finland, food waste originating from food stores and supermarkets is over 65 million kilos per year. Only 10–15 % of that is given to food aid because food aid organizations work mostly on voluntary basis. The environmental impact of wasted food is enormous because of all the resources that have been invested in producing, packaging and transporting the food.

Waste food is not only the products left over from supermarkets. In addition to products that passed their ‘’best before’’ -dates it is all the funny looking vegetables, overripe bananas, so called rough fish and the parts of the carcase that are not used in the meat production for reason or another. All together, if food waste was a country it would be the third largest emitting country in the world. Kohvakka felt like something must be done.

And this is how the idea of a food recycling center and a waste food restaurant was born. After visiting the waste food restaurant Instock in Amsterdam, Netherlands Kohvakka was convinced that this was something we need in Helsinki.

Variant menu and work opportunities

The menu of the restaurant will change daily and sometimes during the day also. This keeps things exciting. A morning in the restaurant starts with the food rescue truck doing its tour and picking up the surplus food from producers, retailers and supermarkets. Professional chefs will then plan a delicious menu based on the ingredients available.

– Food waste occurs in all stages of production. We live in a system where it makes economically more sense not to utilize all the products. It is really interesting to work with a wide spectrum of ingredients, it’s like a new top chef challenge every day, one of the restaurant’s creative chefs says.

In addition to a diverse menu, Loop has a diverse staff. From waste to taste – the project behind the restaurant – gives work opportunities to people who have difficulties finding jobs: young and long-term unemployed as well as immigrants. From Waste to Taste provides them training and supports them in finding their way to work life. European Social Fund is supporting the social aspect of the restaurant.

Lunching and brunching in an old hospital building

Before restaurant Loop the operation started as a pop up restaurant in the premises of Made in Kallio, in Vaasankatu 14, in  March 2016. Over the summer 2016 the restaurant moved to a permanent location to the Lapinlahti area, where the restaurant operates now in an old hospital building. Along with Loop the building is also a home for art galleries, boutiques and working spaces.

Loop serves lunches during the week, which include a warm dish from the kitchen, a salad buffet, soup, bread, coffee/tea and a dessert. On the weekends it’s time for brunch with changing themes. For example the first weekend of every month the brunch is all vegan. Sustainability is in the core of the restaurant’s ideology.

– Of course one restaurant cannot make a vast impact on climate change alone. But we hope to change people’s attitudes towards wasting food. Our goal is to make it cool to eat food that would be wasted otherwise and increase the valuation of the food. We hope the restaurant will be a great addition to the food culture and restaurant life of Helsinki, Kohvakka concludes.

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