The chef-owner of restaurants like Singapore's Adrift by David Myers and Salt Water in Tokyo comes clean about the business of cooking green

The slow and steady race to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle is a complex thing, driven by a seemingly simple ethos—that of making a conscious decision to put the planet first. But the fact that we struggle to give up something as simple as plastic straws not only affirms the complex nature of today’s consumer market, it also sheds some light on the struggles restaurateurs face in their bid to be more committed to the cause. Something David Myers of Adrift at Marina Bay Sands knows all too well.

“Eliminating the consumption of plastic is a tough challenge because it’s everywhere and so ingrained in our daily lives,” shared the charismatic Californian chef-restaurateur who also has restaurants in Dubai and Tokyo. “However, I think it’s a journey and every small step matters. For example, our restaurants in Dubai don’t use any plastic straws, we use recyclable straws instead.”

The point, he stresses, is that there are more ways to be part of the change we want to see in this world. “At Adrift by David Myers, we are focused on working with the right suppliers and vendors who are able to provide us with ingredients at the highest level, both in quality and how they are handled and raised,” he expounds. “Quality is at the top of our list, and our team upholds this goal. We try our best to source for earth-friendly and environmentally-sound produce.”

(Related: Tatler Table: Embracing Sustainable Dining)

One of the biggest challenges, he posits, is transportation, especially for restaurants in Singapore and Dubai where almost everything is imported. As such, his team sources for quality produce regionally—like potatoes from Indonesia—where they can. And there is a synergy to be appreciated. “Cooking with a conscience for me means to source for ingredients from farmers and fishermen who harvest, grow, cultivate and catch in the most genuine way possible,” Myers explains, stressing how these producers care about the important things, such as the type of fertiliser they use and the growing conditions of the crops; or the appropriate fishing methods, such as line instead of nets, to adopt. “They raise animals in an organic and harmonious way with very little or no antibiotics. They are incredible people who care about the environment and look to bring great products to us; supporting them encourages them to continue these good practices to bring us quality produce.”

(Related: A Masterclass In Zero-Waste Cooking)

Feeding a community

It is easy to appreciate the luxury of having choices, and the freedom to make them as an intrinsic human condition. But for top chefs and restaurateurs who are also proponents of sustainable practices, being part of this community requires tough business decisions and a lot of ingenuity both inside and outside the kitchen.

“Reducing our environmental impact has always been a key focus, right from the start when I opened my first restaurant,” Myers shares. “We recycle our cooking oil and use it to make soap, which is sold at high-end boutiques across the world.” More impressively, the majority of ingredients for his restaurant Salt Water in Tokyo are sourced locally. He adds that aside from meat that is sourced from Hokkaido, the restaurant is completely self‑sustained within the Tokyo area.

“At Adrift, many of our green practices are aligned with Marina Bay Sands’ property-wide green initiatives,” Myers continues. “We also recycle our cooking oil and utilise herbs and trimmings from Marina Bay Sands’ in-house herb garden located just outside Adrift.” To minimise waste, the restaurant uses as much of an animal as possible, and adopts fermentation and pickling to reuse vegetable peelings and core.

“We are always reinventing new ways to present great food; not as a show or performance, but done well in simple and innovative ways,” he says, adding that it comes back to reaching out to people who share this pride, commitment and passion for holistic farming and environmentally sound practices. “From my experience, the best ingredients are those raised with love and care by people who are passionate about quality.

“For example, one of our signature dishes at Adrift is the LA Galbi Ribs, which uses sustainable Cape Grim beef from Tasmania, Australia.” Cape Grim, he explains, is known for its pure air and rich pastures, overseen by ranchers committed to sustainable and ethical practices. The grass-fed free-range beef is certified free of GMO, antibiotics and hormones. In addition, Adrift is a strong supporter of the integrated resort’s shift towards using sustainable seafood, and its menu features sustainable salmon, oysters and shrimp, to name a few. The team is constantly looking at ways to improve, from reassessing its suppliers to studying the type of biodynamic wines they procure.

“We really hope that when our guests come to dine with us at Adrift, they recognise that we are doing everything we can to deliver a great dining experience, in serving great food using fine ingredients in a way that they can be proud of as consumers,” he adds. “It is always our goal to let diners understand why our restaurant places such strong emphasis on where we get our food, how we get our food, and our point of view on this matter.” 

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