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Change can happen where and when you least expect it. The Arabian desert is not the first-place people think of a centre of sustainable food production but with a little investigation, you can find a lot of incredible things happening.
A recent, game changing, carbon-neutral event in Dubai highlighted the possibility of sustainable food and drinks to a new audience. This event was born of some exciting conversations between businesses we admire –Little Red Door, Paris, one of the top-rated bars in the world and Boca Restaurant and Bar, an award-winning restaurant in Dubai, about foraging and ethical practices in hospitality. We decided to team up to offer a luxury farm to table experience that showcased the best quality local, sustainable food and drink that Dubai has to offer, all while offsetting the carbon this event created.
Little Red Door’s Bar Director Alex Francis headed to Dubai for the collaboration. He and Omar Shihab of Boca played host to bar staff and hospitality industry professionals from throughout the UAE on this desert adventure.
The event began with farm visits, first to the largest organic farm in Dubai, Emirates Bio Farm, on to Mary Anne’s Fresh Produce where edible flowers and micro herbs are grown, then to a state-of-the-art strawberry farm, Pure Harvest, and finishing at Alanda Nursery where 120 species of native plants gathered from the UAE are grown.
A man who knows a lot about these native species is Boca's general manager and chief sustainability officer, Omar. Boca is located in Dubai’s financial district where they have three main sustainability goals - waste management, using renewable energy, and sourcing their produce locally. It was named sustainability business of the year in 2021 and Sustainable Kitchen of the Year in 2022, by Gault&Millau, independent restaurant reviewers. Boca hosted an event on the second day, where guests were treated to a seven-course vegetarian menu and five Little Red Door Botanist cocktails, hero-ing ingredients that they had come across on their journey the day before. The majority of restaurants in Dubai are flying in luxury ingredients from around the world, which means Boca’s menu of locally-sourced food is not just bucking the trend but blazing a trail, one which they believe has to be the start of a change for world-wide food sustainability.
Omar said: “Our direction has always been looking at local supplies and things that can grow here. These ingredients are not available commercially. We wanted to take it a step further, and try to understand, what used to grow here in the past, what is really native to the country, and try to reintroduce that. We’re hoping a lot more people will get on board; we need a lot more experimentation - infusing, pickling, working with these species that can grow in arid states or with high salinity. So that we can start having a cuisine that is our own."
The final event in the collaboration was a masterclass for top bars and restaurants in Dubai, led by Alex and Omar, who shared their story, and the trials and tribulations of being an ethical business.
The Co2 emissions from all flights, hotels, cars, and the events themselves were calculated and emissions offset by planting trees in Kenya.
At The Botanist, looking after the planet and our people is as important to us as making a profit. That’s why we achieved B Corp certification in 2020, for our commitment to using our business as a force for good. We’re proud to be part of an exciting network of likeminded businesses, B Corp and otherwise, that’s part of this movement for change.