Monthly Archives: October 2015

What Do You Get When You Sand 600 Bricks?

Constructing our keyhole gardens.

Mikkel of BioArk helping us construct our keyhole gardens.

In the last post I talked in depth about the amazing world of compost and earthworms. Separately they are amazing but what happens when you build a platform for the two? Magic. The next stage on our path to sustainability is “The Keyhole Garden.”

How did this happen? It all started with a conversation I had with the guys from BioArk. We wanted to find ways to reduce our kitchen waste as well as find self-sustaining growing beds for the garden. Mikkel then suggested keyhole gardens. He sends me a link about them and next thing I know, I was lying in bed at 2 AM reading about the origins of the keyhole garden. Apparently, it’s a common growing medium in Africa. For those who aren’t familiar with a keyhole garden, it’s a circular growing bed with a maximum diameter of two meters, a height of about 80 cm and a 25 cm wide cylinder in the middle made of chicken wire. There is a small wedge cut into the outer circle that abuts the inner cylinder to allow for standing access: It basically looks like a huge wheel of cheese that someone took a giant wedge from. It’s hard to visualize this, but it all makes sense when you see the photos.

How did we construct this thing?

The construction of the whole bed goes something like this.  The outer wall was made of reclaimed bricks from a demolished building in the neighborhood. By reusing the old bricks, we were not only sustainable but also saved money.

Got cardboard?

Got cardboard?

The downside to having free bricks was that we had to sand down about 600 bricks so they would stack properly. The amount of time and work it took us to do this was mind-boggling. I had to keep on telling myself that this was all for a good cause. After we finished the brick frame, we starting filling in the base with carbon and nitrogen-based elements. Luckily for us, this was the fun part. We used over a week’s worth of unbroken wine bottles to fill the base ­– this was to allow oxygen to percolate through from underneath the growing medium. And here’s comes the good part: for each garden, we saved about one month’s worth of blank brown cardboard from the kitchen. Then you place a layer of cardboard down, soak it with water and then add horse manure and the earthworms. You make about 10 layers of this and then put 10 cm of soil on the top. Give it about five to six weeks for the earthworms to metabolize the carbon and nitrogen then you can add your wet kitchen waste (anything compostable like vegetable trim, but no onions or citrus fruits!) to the center cylinder. At this point, the earthworms go to town with all those organic materials and leave worm castings to fertilize the plants growing above it. And it doesn’t even have to be watered often because it draws water from all the fresh wet kitchen waste.

This project was truly a team effort. I think at one point there were twelve of us working on the gardens at once, and at least one point throughout the day, we were all cursing those bricks. But the results were worth it. Plants that come from the keyhole garden are incredibly prolific and best of all, everything tastes fantastic.

For those who want to build their own keyhole garden, here’s the list of materials we used for our 2 beds. And all of it was material that otherwise would have been thrown out.

  1. Two weeks worth of used wine bottles
  2. 600 reclaimed bricks
  3. Two weeks worth of brown (non-bleached) cardboard
  4. Horse manure from Christiana (they apparently have a problem giving it away)
  5. AND 50 hours of blood, sweat and a few tears

I hope this post inspires some of you to try to build your own keyhole garden. And if any of you need some cardboard or a couple of starter worms, please don’t hesitate to send us an email at the restaurant. There’s nothing more we’d love to do than to help others kickstart their own keyhole garden.

Pay dirt!

Ready for seeds!

Five Questions for Guest Chef Brandon Baltzley

 

Brandon_Baltzley_Gotham_Nine Live_author photo_credit Claudio Marinesco

Chef Brandon Baltzley of Ribelle restaurant in Boston is our guest chef for our Spontaneous Combustion dinner on October 28, 2015. While many in the U.S. know him from his book, Nine Lives, we thought we would introduce him to Copenhagen by asking a couple of questions.

What are you looking forward to the most in coming to cook with us?

Collaboration is a huge part of my pantry. Bouncing ideas off of one another is a crucial part of making a good dish great. I think cooking at Amass is a huge opportunity to work with like-minded cooks in order to create some amazing new ideas on a plate.

You’re known for not planning your dishes until the day of service. How does that work in practice and what are the challenges in cooking on the day?

I like working out of spontaneity.  I find dishes to be overworked and overly thought-out when there is too much planning involved. If we approach a dish at Ribelle, it is usually with little to no planning. That’s not to say the dish may not evolve over time. We fine tune things all the time, but it’s also difficult when we only have a finite period of time to make an idea into a great dish, as the shelf life of a dish on our menu lasts about three weeks.

How do you keep yourself motivated every day as a chef?

The people around me keep me motivated. Their drive drives me. If I didn’t surround myself with the best than I’d have a hard time getting up everyday. The creative expression is a big factor as well. My mind moves constantly so I have to as well

Sustainability has been a large part of your cooking profile. Why is it so important to you?

I think as humans we have a role to live our lives sustainably and as chefs, we have a role to teach others about it. We use whole animals, sustainable fish, forage responsibly, compost, and use as little water as possible. It’s our world now, but I’d like it to be around for my grandchildren.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for the next generation of chefs and restaurants and how can we solve them?

I think our food systems are changing at an alarming rate. I think chefs of the next generation are going to have an important role in new educating others, not just in the kitchen, but also in universities, symposiums, and even in politics. I think there are very large shoes to fill in a sense of what certain chefs are trying to do today, and even larger ones when environmental issues come in the future. We have to do our best to train our cooks to be the chefs who we couldn’t be ourselves.

For more information regarding our dinner with Chef Baltzley, please go to our Events page. Reservations can be made on our website, www.amassrestaurant.com.