The sustainable way

For James Viles, ingredients must not just be the best - they must also be sustainable. The chef explains how what’s good for the planet is good for the plate.

The importance of sustainability in fine dining first occurred to James Viles when he was setting up his restaurant Biota in Bowral some six years ago, complete with kitchen garden, chicken coop, greenhouse and on-site composting.

"Sustainability, to me, is a way of life," says Viles. "Recycling at home and cooking with ingredients that are in season, cooking with ingredients that are here one day and gone the next. It's one of those things where one thing leads to another," he continues. "So recycling, composting and all of that is good for the garden. You feed the soil and you get nice plants, you use what you want and [the waste] goes back into the garden. Sustainability's just about processes that link."

James Viles, Biota Dining

At Biota, the gardens are fed by natural springs and the constantly-changing menu is dictated by the different seasonal ingredients brought each week by trusted local suppliers.

Sustainability is also about the long term, stresses Viles. In this he's aligned with Nespresso's commitment to building and assisting the communities and farmers who grow its coffee. The brand ensures farmers are educated in sustainable farming through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program. Launched in 2003, the initiative has been at the core of Nespresso's business model for almost 15 years, with newer extensions developed to assist with the environmental, financial and social goals of the company. In partnership with Fairtrade International, Nespresso'Future Farmer Program aims to enhance farmer welfare through assisted efforts such as pension schemes and generational farm transfers. It is a commitment to sustainability that flows through to the company's production stages, with Nespresso's use of aluminium, a material which is infinitely recyclable while protecting the freshness and aromas of the coffee inside the capsule. These are just some of the many reasons why Viles serves Nespresso to his guests at Biota.

The important last step of the sustainability journey for Nespresso is the recycling process and recycling options available for both in home and Professional Nespresso consumers, not only of the aluminium, but also transforming the coffee grounds into compost. "That's a big thing. It happens from start to finish," says Viles. "It's about committing to that way of life and building on it over the years. That's what sustainability is."

The green hills of a coffee farm, one of Nespresso's AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program partners in Brazil. 

Here, he shares his approach to a greener plate:

  • Seasonality: Biota's degustation is based on what suppliers have brought that week; diners don't even know what they're getting until it lands on the table.
  • Local produce: As an extension of Viles' commitment to local food, three years ago Biota began serving Australian wine exclusively.
  • Grow your own: Even if you are just growing your own lettuces, Viles says it's a good start towards sustainability: "They're easy to grow."
  • Waste reduction:  The Nespresso Professional machine at Biota obviates the need for tamping which wastes coffee. "Benefits for a restaurant like this [are less] wastage, less cleaning, consistency and speed."

Biota's kitchen garden

Hit play on the video above to see Viles talking all things sustainability with fellow paddock-to-plate advocate Mike McEnearney. Over a cup of coffee (Nespresso, naturally) the two consider the future of the food industry. "My hope for the future of the food industry, when it comes to sustainability, is an industry focused on less-is-more and using what's available - and small amounts of it," says Viles.


This article is sponsored by Nespresso

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