Inside Dubai restaurant that got a Michelin Green Star for its approach to food waste

Lowe has been in the spotlight for its unique menu that utilises waste products of one dish in another



Lowe
Lowe
by

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Mon 11 Jul 2022, 6:13 PM

Last updated: Mon 11 Jul 2022, 11:00 PM

Apart from eggshells and avocado pits, there is little that goes to waste at Lowe, the only restaurant in the UAE to win a Michelin Green Star. With a unique menu that utilises waste products of one dish in another, the eatery has been in the spotlight globally for the way it functions. Kate Christou, the Australian chef behind Lowe, credits her husband's creativity and her background as an environmental journalist for the restaurant's ethos.

Lowe, tucked away in the corner of Al Barari, only serves customers five days a week to conserve energy. "It doesn't make sense to cool and light up a restaurant that is not very busy, not to mention the food waste," said Kate Christou.

"We have experimented and figured out when we are the busiest. We open only during those hours." The menu also has very little protein over the summer months. "We source a lot of seafood from the region," said Kate. "The taste of this declines as the water heats up during summer. So our menu is about 75% vegetarian during summer."

The waste not menu

Lowe first began grabbing eyeballs with its Waste Not menu- an 8-10 course meal made exclusively from waste products in the restaurant. One of the dishes served on the menu was meat trim kofta. A dessert item was citrus pith custard, torched meringue, and stale pastry crumble.

"We started to notice that a lot of food was going to waste," said Kate. "It wasn't ok. Especially in the UAE, the carbon emission for products to get to the restaurant is so much that we knew we had to do something. My husband Jesse is very creative. So we discussed and came up with a menu that would reuse waste, be creative and educate customers. One of our most popular dishes was the burnt toast ice cream. It gets hectic during service, and sometimes toasts would get burnt. We came up with a way to turn it into ice cream."

Lowe. Photo: Supplied
Lowe. Photo: Supplied

However, working on this menu gave way to something else. "We have learnt to create amazing dishes with waste products," said Kate. "We have now curated a menu that barely creates any waste. So the frequency of our Waste Not dinners have gone down considerably."

While KT was there, Kate and her head chef Raj served a summer salad and gazpacho, a cold vegetable soup. All the trimmings and waste products created by the salad went into the soup. Lowe takes its 'waste no ethos very seriously!

The journey to Lowe

As a youngster, Kate ran a catering business before becoming an environmental journalist in London. However, a chance to move to Berlin, where she couldn't work as a journalist as she didn't speak German, altered the course of her life together.

After working at a Michelin star restaurant in Berlin, Kate moved back to Melbourne, where she got hired at her dream restaurant. There she met a young man, Jesse Blake, who she later married and together, the duo was approached in 2017 to move to Dubai and set up their own restaurant by Emirati entrepreneur Mohammed Zaal.

Lowe's handmade crockery. Photo: Supplied
Lowe's handmade crockery. Photo: Supplied

"We were given free rein," she said. "We were told to open a concept that would change the food scene in Dubai. Lowe, which in Scottish English means a low light produced by fire, was the name we had reserved for our dream restaurant. We were reluctant to give it over. However, we were given so much freedom here that we decided to go for it. From the design to the cutlery, we were involved in everything. Some of the plates we made ourselves because we do pottery on the side."

Lowe got off to a slow start with a new concept in a unique location. "Diners took some time to understand us," said Kate. "However, once people came, they kept coming back. In March 2020, we celebrated our first anniversary. We had built up some momentum and were looking to leverage it when the lockdowns were announced."

Lowe interior. Photo: Supplied
Lowe interior. Photo: Supplied

The pandemic and onwards

"We were devastated," said Kate. "It was such a difficult time for us. I remember crying, thinking that all our hard work was just gone. With our location, we couldn't pivot into deliveries. However, thankfully the Dubai government started to reopen everything. We started serving just two days a week. Now we do 5 days a week, and I don't think we will do more than that. I think the pandemic was a great time for us to learn and re-evaluate ourselves."

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Since reopening, Lowe has created a space to compost and earmark an area for its own vegetable garden. "Once we start composting after this summer, we will be able to put whatever waste products we cannot use into that," said Kate. "And I am hoping we can move into a zero-waste model."

The Michelin recognition has meant a great deal to the team at Lowe. "We never marketed ourselves as a sustainable restaurant," said Kate. "Sustainability is just something that comes naturally to us. So, we were not really expecting this recognition. I am thankful for it, and I hope it will pave the way for more restaurants to think in terms of minimising food waste and becoming more sustainable."


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