Despilfarrar dinero

If you don’t throw your money in the bin, why would you do it with energy?

Por: Álvaro Arrieta

It’s 9 o’clock in the morning and it is time to get on with our shift in the kitchen. While we wait for the coffee machine to be ready to make the first of many coffees that we will have during the day, we turn on the ovens. Once everything is ready, we have that cup of coffee and we start our day’s mise en place: washing, peeling, cutting, dressing and after a while, we start cooking and baking. Does this sound familiar among my fellow chefs?

That’s how the day starts in the majority of hotels and restaurants. That has been the cook’s ritual since immemorial times. Times prior to Paul Bocuse’s apprenticeship with ‘La Mère Brazier’[1]. For those who are not well acquainted with the history of gastronomy, just imagine that I’m talking about times where Ferran Adrià was not even born.


However, there’s always been something extremely difficult for me to understand in this morning ritual: the unnecessary expenditure of resources. We think that we need to turn everything on from the moment we arrive but, we do not use it for some time after.

In the food industry, we assume expenses incurred by actions like the aforementioned, as inherent to our operational activity and nothing could be further from the truth. If we don’t throw a portion of fresh sole to the bin, why would we waste resources that represent a considerable expense to the company?

In Great Britain, restaurants consume £1,3 billion in energy per year and these are responsible of more CO2 emissions than Costa Rica. Our British colleagues must realize that there is something to do about it. It doesn’t matter if your motives regard environmental commitment or your own pocket (energy represents 22.5% of operational expenses).

Moreover, an energy audit on restaurants in Madrid showed that 30% of all energy expense is produced in the kitchen, followed by lighting systems at 28%, and refrigeration with 20%. Numbers that might make us rethink the way we manage our establishment.

But concretely, what could we do?

Like my colleague Isabel Coderch says: “you can only control what has been already measured”. Start by analyzing what we consume, through internal or external auditing, to focus our actions on critical points but with large repercussions.

We can also consider eco-efficient equipment that will allow us to control and optimize our resources as well as, to facilitate certain processes. Do not forget the very famous LED! Let’s make technology our ally to reduce costs.

Last but not least, we should inform our fellow workers, explain to them why we aim to make such changes. It is time to end with those unnecessary rituals, as legendary as they might be.

I suggest that our chefs keep learning from La nouvelle Cuisine when it comes to culinary techniques but, it is fair time to add to this beautiful job certain notions of sustainability and environmental impact with the due respect of Monsieur Paul (to whom I congratulate on his 90th birthday). Bonne anniversaire et vive la soupe aux truffes noires. [2]

[1] Eugénie Brazier ( 1895 – 1977), first woman chef to acquire 6 stars on the Michelin guide with two restaurants.

[2] Happy birthday and long live the truffle soup!

Álvaro Arrieta Valle
Coordinador del Master en Dirección de Restauración del CETT-UB. Profesor en Gestión de Restauración y firme defensor de que el futuro de la alimentación pasa por la gestión ambiental y socialmente responsable. Vibra con Pink Floyd y la pizza Margarita.