Food waste farming startup Indie Ecology works with the best restaurants to create great compost.
Credit: Image by Chris Winsor/Getty Images

Clearly, Michelin-starred restaurants have a reason to feel a bit pompous about their food; they earned it. But is their food so good that even its composted leftovers can be used to grow superior fresh produce? A growing British food waste startup thinks why the hell not.

Indie Ecology touts that it offers the highest quality compost—what some have billed as “Michelin-starred compost”—because it collects the leftovers from dozens of London’s top restaurants including Michelin-starred joints like The Ledbury and Le Gavroche. Though the idea of gourmet compost from gourmet restaurants might sound a bit snooty, Indie Ecology founder Igor Vaintraub’s primary concern is promoting food waste farming. “I wanted to help chefs understand the true impact they can have on nature and the environment,” he explains on the company website.

Vaintraub takes his compost farming seriously as well. He studied with the British Society of Soil Science and developed a natural, pesticide-free composting process based on the Japanese “Bokashi” method, which currently takes place on a 10-acre farm in West Sussex. From there, the restaurants that provide their leftovers for composting are given the option to rent plots on the farm and choose what produce they would like grown and delivered back to them. The whole process literally turns food waste into fresh food.

“At first I think chefs were a bit dubious about coming on board with us, as there was a cost involved and it was not something they had ever done before,” Tom Morphew, a business partner in Indie Ecology, told the Evening Standard. “But once they started the produce, it is 100 times better than what they buy from wholesalers that is force-grown in greenhouses.”

Adam Handling, the restaurateur behind the Michelin Bib Gourmand eatery The Frog and a former MasterChef finalist, is part of the program and explained that even though he can get “a lot more crazy vegetables because we rent the farm,” Indie Ecology also offers up a more ethereal benefit. “I think more chefs nowadays—we are never going to save the world,” he said, “but we should fundamentally respect the ingredients we are using.”

Indie Ecology isn’t the only place in London to find Michelin-starred compost. For example, Le George at The Four Seasons Hotel George V composts waste from the hotel to help fuel its own organic farm which grows fresh produce for the restaurant. But for slightly less ambitious restaurants, Indie Ecology makes for a great middleman.