John and I recently caught up with Craig Turton, proud and passionate owner of Santorini Greek Restaurant, in Williamstown. We first met Craig in late in 2014 when searching for people passionate about improving the quality and sustainability of how we grow and handle food. Our goal was to recruit such ‘market leaders’ to a ‘sustainable food forum’. For example, would it be possible for organic and small scale farmers to supply the world’s food needs?
Needless to say, Craig contributed brilliantly, the forum was a great success and we found ourselves with a new and interesting contact.
Craig has recently left the corporate world in search of a better life, closer to home and family and to his community.
A Williamstown resident for 13 years, he seeks to contribute to this area and to bring locals and visitors back to all that makes Williamstown great. “I’m out to challenge the perception that you can’t get good food in Williamstown and I want to get locals supporting locals, so that our business’s thrive and we don’t lose our wonderful heritage buildings. I’m involved with our neighbourhood schools and use local businesses for repairs and renovations on the restaurant.” A sustainable local economy? I suggest and he agrees.
For Craig, the restaurant is a way of being more involved in the community. “I greet the guests at the door and get to talk with locals.”
Sitting mid morning in the spacious yet friendly interior of Santorini, before the preparations for the evening start in earnest, our host is relaxed and the conversation ranges over many aspects of sustainability and business.
What’s the priorities?
I ask Craig what sustainability means to his business and he hesitates a little. “To be quite honest I haven’t really had much time to think about it since I took over, but yeah we do a few things. We recycle mineral water bottles, we’re using some of the large ones as table water decanters and our customers love that. Since I took over, I’ve really had my eye on the business basics, getting the priorities right. First priority is always economic sustainability. If you’re not making money then you don’t have a business. Then it’s been compliance, that’s critical in the food business – food safety, fire safety, liquor licence etc. Then it’s marketing and the day to day running of the business.”
How Fresh Is That!
Craig’s passion shines through as he explains his drive for fresh, local food. “It needs to be local and organic if possible, that leads to better food, it’s fresher, there’s less processing and knowing the story behind it, the provenance, is important.”
I suggest that perhaps he’s doing sustainable food and not knowing it. He acknowledges the point, taking great delight in showing me the lime tree he discovered in a tiny courtyard behind restaurant. He surprises guests, by dashing out to the tree to bring them a fresh lime for their G&T and has invested in a ‘ModPress’ to allow him to squeeze fresh juices in front of their eyes. “How fresh is that?” he laughs and his eyes crinkle with pleasure.
Craig has a mission to bring the freshest local food to his customers and lemons are at the top of the list. The Lemon Exchange has starred on Santorini’s facebook page and people are dropping off bags of their ‘oversupply’ to the restaurant. “Wouldn’t it be great if you had locals that were coming here and DEMANDING local products and food?” Craig grins.
The conversation then turns to waste and we discuss Joost Bakker and the Silo and Brothl experiments.
Craig admits “I don’t manage waste effectively and I see this as an opportunity for us”. He takes as much food waste home for his compost and worm farm as possible but “there’s only so much I can take.” Unlike the household waste bins we are all used to, the restaurant waste collection bins are simply a cardboard & paper recycle bin and everything else goes in one bin to landfill. We agree that here is an opportunity for forward thinking councils to adopt the management of food waste as compost, taking on the Joost Bakker philosophy of ‘no-waste’.
Craig encourages guests to take home excess, although they can’t allow high-risk foods such as seafood to leave the premises.
There appear to be no current facilities available however for managing the food waste of commercial-scale enterprises despite the demonstrated business viability of this venture. Recovered cooking oils for example are a profitable product. Oils are recycled through a commercial recycler who pays the restaurant to take the used cooking oil away.
The other challenge is energy efficiency. When a building is not your own, it’s difficult to plan green investments such as solar energy, passive heating and draft proofing an old building. Despite that, Craig remains open to any improvements he could make.
We end the interview with a tour of the lime-tree courtyard and discuss plans to create a useable herb garden and a relaxation area for the staff. I come away feeling that for Craig, sustainability is an art not simply a program!
Craig Turton can be found at:
Santorini Williamstown: 1 Parker St, Williamstown VIC 3016 | 03 9399 8520