The TH Interview: Barny Haughton of Bordeaux Quay

"Barny Haughton is a great pioneer and one of the unsung heroes of the organic movement. He has been serving up food which is not only delicious, but local, organic and sustainable since 1988, long before these issues became fashionable."
- Patrick Holden, Soil Association 2006

Barny Haughton is chef and proprietor of Bordeaux Quay, an exciting and innovative restaurant, bar, bakery and cookery school which we reported on here and here and which he set up with business partner and property developer John Pontin OBE. Prior to setting up Bordeaux Quay, Barny founded Quartier Vert where he has been cooking, teaching, baking and eating for almost two decades. He has also been deeply involved in campaigning for a more sustainable approach to food and is an active member of the Slow Food movement. In this interview with Treehugger he discusses the vision behind his latest project, the future of organic and local foods, and sheds a little more light on the ecological building which is home to Bordeaux Quay.

Treehugger: Bordeaux Quay incorporates not just a restaurant, but also a bar, deli, bakery and cookery school. What is the vision behind such an ambitious project?

Barny Haughton: Bordeaux Quay was born from a desire to create a beautiful space to eat; a place where diners and staff alike feel they are making environmentally responsible choices whilst enjoying good food. This model is based on Quartier Vert, my first restaurant in Bristol. Quartier Vert originally housed the bakery and cookery school which have now moved to the bigger space of Bordeaux Quay.TH: You have set yourselves the task of sourcing the majority of your food within 50 miles. What will be the major challenges in achieving this?

BH: One of the major challenges we face in sourcing our food from the South West is managing our supply. The kitchens at BQ have about twenty or so suppliers which adds considerably to our planning process. The menus change daily which poses a further challenge to the kitchens who produce as many as 400-500 meals a day.

TH: There seems to be an increasing interest in good quality, local, sustainable food. Is this a fad or a paradigm shift?

BH: No, I don't think this is a fad. I have been using good quality, local, organic food since I started Quartier Vert almost 20 years ago. Public support for this approach to buying and eating has been growing steadily throughout this period. Today's savvy consumer has a greater understanding of the impact of local sustainable produce on both their health and the environment. When a topic like this is subject to the full glare of the media it's easy to dismiss it as flavour of the month, but I do think that we are beginning to see a real shift in our approach to food.

TH: What can/should the government be doing to support truly sustainable food systems?

BH: At the moment the real cost of intensively grown food is not reflected in its price. When the impact of agrichemicals and transport and the cost of healthcare caused by unhealthy diets are factored into the price of food, the public will be better able to understand the importance of a sustainable food system.

TH: Local and organic food is sometimes seen as the preserve of the wealthy "chattering classes". Is this fair?

BH: It is ironic that sustainable food production is seen like this given that for so long it was the ordinary "working people" who ate this way and the wealthy who ate imported pineapples and cocoa. Organic is now viewed by many as a brand rather than principle of food production and as a brand it is often marketed as a 'luxury' option. However, in reality buying local seasonal vegetables from a box scheme, market or farm shop is cheaper than buying them from a supermarket.

TH: Bordeaux Quay also has a very forward thinking environmental policy in terms of energy, waste and water use. Could you tell us a little about the specific measures that you are taking?

BH: Our policy is simple: everything that can be reused, recycled or composted will be. We are encouraging our suppliers to reuse their packaging wherever possible. We are also working on a way to compost our kitchen waste. The fact that our waste contains animal by-products coupled with our location in the middle of a city with no outside land means that we are unable to compost in the conventional way so we are currently looking into an in-vessel composting option, either for ourselves or for Bristol businesses as a whole.

We are also working to minimise our consumption and waste in all areas. Our energy consumption is reduced by using low energy bulbs and equipment and by employing simple yet effective measures such as ensuring that lights and equipment are turned off when not in use. The lights in the toilets are on motion sensors so that they are not left on unnecessarily, for example. Solar hot water panels on the roof heat water before it goes into the heating system, reducing the energy required by the boiler and a rainwater harvesting tank collects water from the roof and uses it to flush the low-flush toilets.

Ultimately, we would like to form relationships with local organisations, community groups and the council in order to help develop a more communal method of dealing with sustainability issues for us, Bristol, and the greater environment.

[Interview conducted by: Sami Grover]

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