Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Path to Sustainability

Our garden as an infant.

Our garden as an infant.

When we first opened Amass, the first six months were a whirlwind and we were just getting our footing in running a restaurant. In retrospect, I feel a bit guilty that we didn’t have the wherewithal to make Amass a sustainable restaurant from the beginning. It wasn’t until our first holiday closure that we actually had some time to review our first six months as a restaurant. At this point we wanted the restaurant to reflect upon what was truly important to us. It was a no brainer: We were going to try to make Amass as sustainable as possible.

The garden was our obvious starting point, and we are very fortunate to be able to have this opportunity. But with this opportunity, we bear a responsibility to work sustainably. Like all new projects, we wanted to do everything at once. I spent late nights poring over sustainable garden systems and nerding out on composting practices on the computer. But I realized that there was no immediate gratification when it came to sustainable gardening. This process was going to take time if we were going to do it properly. But this was not just about setting up a physical system ­– we all had to be mentally committed as well. Basically, if your employees aren’t as passionate about separating different types of waste or saving excess water, this was going to be an exercise in futility. Luckily, this was not a difficult idea to sell to the team. They realized as much as I did that this not only benefitted the restaurant, but it was part of a larger vision about our obligation to the environment.

From there, the project just snowballed: We keep on discovering new ideas and solutions. Over the next few entries, I’ll talk concretely about how we started on this path, the decisions we’ve made and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. In doing this I hope that other people will take bits and pieces of this information and try to apply it to their kitchens – restaurant or not. For us, the garden opened up possibilities that we could have never have done if we were confined in the city. But just because you don’t have a garden, doesn’t mean that you can’t replicate some of the initiatives that we do here, whether you are in a restaurant or a home kitchen.

So after that long introduction, I want to start off with my first and probably one of my biggest failures (and there have been many…) in our quest for sustainability: COMPOST.

My Relationship with Compost

The wrong way to compost.

The wrong way to compost.

When we first opened, composting was the obvious thing to do. We have a garden, the garden needs nutrients, we have lots of organic kitchen waste, so let’s compost!!!!. Wow, I couldn’t have been more naive about how to go about it. My original thought was, “Let’s build a couple of boxes to dispose of our kitchen waste and magically we’ll have fertile compost for our planters!” Wrong! It wasn’t until 5-6 months in that I realized that something was going quite right. It was winter and despite it being around 2 C, the compost was giving off a rancid smell. Something was obviously not working. Coincidentally, around the same time that my compost was turning into a stink bomb, we met a couple of guys that had just started a business called BioArk. Mikkel and Lasse were hard-core sustainable urban gardening junkies. As BioArk was just starting out, they suggested collaboration. They use our garden as a lab for their ideas, and we would get cool gardening systems in return. We couldn’t have asked for a better deal. When it came to our composting practices, I showed Mikkel our boxes and unloaded a whole bunch of frustration. Right there, I got a quick lesson in how to compost properly, and from there on in, I was hooked on composting.

Basically, what I realized is that our compost needed some serious vitamins. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the process, successful composting is a balance between nitrogen (as in kitchen waste) and carbon (for example, shredded cardboard, wood chips, straw, etc.). Our compost desperately needed a source of carbon and guess what? All the brown cardboard we had been placing into the recycling bin could provide us all the carbon we needed. It was right in front of us all along and thanks to that little bit of knowledge, we just decreased our trash pick up by one third.


The right way to compost.

But this was not the end of my compost woes. In theory, composting sounds simple. You add carbon to nitrogen so you can promote the decomposition, not rotting, of organic matter. But in reality, it’s not that simple at all. The point of composting is to encourage the growth of good bacteria which breaks down organic material into nutrients that plants can use, as opposed to bad bacteria that will only give you nasty smells. And that’s not all. Compost has to be “cooking” – that is, it has to be within a certain internal temperature to promote the breakdown of matter. And if anyone knows the weather in Scandinavia, it’s a problem, especially if you have an outdoor composting system like ours. What happens when the temperature drops? It gets really moody, thus there needs to be a certain volume of organic matter in order to keep at a steady temperature. And your bacteria have to breathe. As the material decomposes, the organic material compacts itself, thus asphyxiating your bacteria. To insure that there is an adequate source of oxygen for all bacteria, you have to constantly turn it to distribute air throughout the box. At this point, we’ve changed our composting systems about four times. It’s become an obsession. Just when we’ve got one system down, I starting thinking “there must be a better way that I just don’t know about.” That’s when you find yourself wide-awake at two-thirty in the morning ruminating new ways to compost.


The Amazing Pig Out




What’s better than a pig party? A pig party with a point.  The goal of the Amazing Pig-Out is to demonstrate that deliciousness and animal welfare can and should go together. Thanks to the work of Ane and Jens of Muld Farms, our pigs have been raised to specifications, having all the space, food and love that livestock should have.

In that spirit, we are also donating 50 DKK of every ticket to the Amass Green Kids Program. Everyone should know where their food comes from and children are no exception. By teaching the next generation about sustainable food practices, we hope to promote a better food system for all.

When September 6th,2015, 12:00 – 20:00

What What better way to honor the lives of these five amazing creatures than by cooking them with the utmost respect. We will be preparing the pigs in three different ways: Two will be smoked, courtesy of Warpigs; two will be grilled in the Amass garden; and one will be confited.

Where Amass Gardens, Refshalevej 153, Copenhagen K 1432

Tickets Available

Lunch: 12:00 – 16:00 for 300 DKK

Dinner: 17:00 – 20:00 for 300 DKK

Kids Menu (up to 12 years) 100 DKK

Mikkeller Beer on sale on-site from 12:00-20:00

Good to know: There are activities for children. Take a blanket. Clean up after yourselves. AND bring good vibes. Wine and juice will be available for sale on-site.

The Amazing Pig Out Partner Descriptions

Amass Green Kids Program: The Amass Green Kids program works with at-risk youth in Copenagen schools to teach them about food, agriculture and cooking. Using a hands-on approach, schoolchildren learn about the natural world, food proudction and taste by growing, harvesting and cooking season produce in Amass’ gardens and kitchen.

MULD: MULD is a farm run by Ane Rørdam Hoffmeyer, a former designer, and Jens Vestergaard, a former chef. Envisioning a seamless space from farm to fork, MULD is currently in the works for building a community kitchen to share their dream with others.

ODC: Two years ago Jonathan Soriano and Joachim Friis, with a group of other creatives, bred eight happy organic pigs on beer as an installation project, with the result being a food collective called ODC. Focusing upon sustainability, quality and community, this project became the springboard for various food ventures such as pop-ups and a soon-to-open online butcher.

Jody Barton: Jody is an Illustrator, animator, art director and designer from the UK with a wide array of skills and experience in editorial, fine art and commercial image-making. He offers a complete design and art direction services with more than 10 years experience. He is currently based in Copenhagen and represented worldwide by the Big Active agency, London.

Mikkeller: Eight years ago he was a math and physics teacher that started experimenting with hops, malt and yeast back home in his kitchen in Copenhagen. Today Mikkel Borg Bjergsø exports his micro brewed beer to 40 different countries and is internationally acclaimed as one of the most innovative and cutting edge brewers in the world.

Amass: Opening to critical acclaim, Matt Orlando, head chef and owner, opened Amass in July, 2013 at the former Burmeister and Wain shipyards on Refshaleøen. Paying tribute to local farmers and purveyors, Amass celebrates the products of the region and reflects the rhythms of the season.

Amass Green Kids Program Black