Douglas McMaster, award-winning chef and founder of the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant SILO, has joined forces with Charles Heidsieck Champagne as part of its unique event series Maverick Encounters – a celebration of pioneering innovators who share the ethos of its legendary founder, ‘Champagne Charlie’.
In the series, which saw McMaster host a masterclass and tasting experience with the champagne house, the chef was joined by Charles Heidsieck’s executive director Stephen Leroux; together they explored the well-kept gastronomic secret of unexpected yet excellent pairing of champagne, bread and butter.
Douglas joins a long list of mavericks, with those previously enlisted in the series including expert tailor Joshua Kane, cutting edge premium knife-makers Blenheim Forge, papercut artist and illustrator Poppy Chancellor, fine dining extraordinaire Paul Askew and mould-breaking custom jewellers The Workbench.
BN1 spoke with the chef ahead of the first of the new season of Maverick Encounters events, taking place at SILO in Brighton on Weds 16 May.
BN1: How does it feel being recognised by Charles Heidsieck in their Maverick series? Does it all feel a bit Top Gun?
Douglas McMaster: The email took me about eight seconds to say yes. I feel very honoured and humbled to be called a ‘maverick’. In 2009 I won the Young Chef of the Year, which was a competition to be the best – and of course it’s nice to be recognised that way. But then years later I won the ‘Most Innovative Chef’ award, and I thought, that’s more like it – that’s the kind of award which really motivates me in this industry. And likewise, to be considered a maverick is really wonderful.
BN1: Winning an award for being innovative is a lot more exciting isn’t it? It forces you to keep striving to do something new.
DM: Yeah, exactly. And that goes hand in hand with a lot of the messaging we try to put across with SILO; the unrealistic desire to have perfection in the industry is very unhealthy – and it creates waste. I once wrote an article about this and said, “Brilliant is enough – let’s do everything properly but do it brilliantly.” And there’s a lot of SILO in that.
BN1: It’s also something you have in common with Charles Heidsieck… Are there any other parallels between SILO’s story and the champagne house’s?
DM: Absolutely, I’d like to think so. Champagne Charlie went against he grain, deciding to do things differently for the greater good, and I consider that something that I and SILO do too. I decided to use my time and career to zoom in on those negatives in the industry – those of waste and of wasting food – and offer a solution. Charles for his whole life struggled to do things his way, and it was only after he passed that he became this incredibly wealthy individual. I can relate to that – I don’t have a Tesla just yet!
BN1: So even prior to the partnership, did you serve champagne? Not many people would automatically associate such a luxury product with a zero-waste message.
DM: Yes we do – we serve Franck Pascale and use a sparkling wine from the Loire Valley – and now Charles Heidsieck. It’s really important for me to prove that sustainability doesn’t have to suffer through quality – that’s such a key message to SILO. There are lots of green and ethical restaurants across the UK but that aren’t very delicious and exciting, they compromise quality, which doesn’t need to happen.
BN1: You’re also extending your no-waste campaign to glass, aren’t you?
DM: Yep, so we’re doing something pretty radical, and it’s starting this evening. We’ve had a successful crowdfunder which has allowed us to buy two machines to turn our used glass into powder – and then into a sort of faux-porcelain. It’s not real, but it has the same structure and qualities of porcelain. The bottles we’re bringing in for Charles Heidsieck are going to be the first we try it with – and then we’ll turn them into plates we’ll use at SILO, or water glasses. It’s a really nice way to mark this event.