In an Instagram post of a vacuum packed cauliflower steak, the chef wrote: “This is more a post for chefs and restaurant owners but how many restaurants out there are still using plastic bags to do shit like [vac packing]. Maybe it’s time to sit down and have a rethink about how many times you really need to do this.”
Rankin says he plans to phase out the use of plastic completely at his London restaurants Temper and Temper2. Both stopped using plastic straws two months ago, being replaced with long and short cocktail straws made from corn starch.
The challenges in phasing out plastic will lie in both the storage of ingredients and the processes used to make certain dishes, as opposed to the supply, Rankin told BigHospitality.
“Not a lot of our stuff comes in in plastic, unlike supermarkets. All our vegetables are loose when they come in, and the meat comes without any packaging because we buy the whole thing,” he says.
Rankin stopped using vacuum packing two years ago, having previously gone through “stacks and stacks” of the vacuum sealable bags for storage.
He believes the overuse of the bags is standard in many kitchens, and is symptomatic of society’s disregard of plastic over use.
“It's about people being aware that we're doing it. Supermarkets at the moment sicken me - it's completely over the top. I can't do a shop without buying 15 bits of plastic, and it doesn't keep [the food] fresher.”
Rankin hopes that making changes in the way his restaurants use the non-recyclable material might influence others to follow suit.
“Restaurants influence public, and I think that’s really important.”
“It’s not about thinking my restaurants alone will change anything, but they might influence other restaurants, which might influence a chain, which might influence someone like Pret a Manger, which could influence Tesco…and then that creates something.”
Environmentally-conscious chef Skye Gyngell last month announced plans to make her restaurant completely plastic free by the end of the year. The Sydney-born chef also ditched plastic straws last year and is currently weaning her brigade off cling-film in lieu of a bio-degradable alternative.
“I looked at Spring and was simply overwhelmed by the amount of plastic we use – it’s everywhere, from something so simple as a recipe file to cling film,” she says.
A number of restaurant groups have or are planning to ditch plastic straws in favour of greener alternatives, ahead of a nationwide ban, including D&D London, PizzaExpress, JD Wetherspoon and Jason Atherton’s The Social Company.