Going ‘green’: make localisation, alternatives work

Going ‘green’: make localisation, alternatives work

Vijay Mudaliar is the owner and operator of Native and Analogue Initiative, two restaurant-bars in Singapore that have been noted internationally for their ground-breaking drinks and sustainability efforts. Native was borne of the belief in using local and regional produce, including urban foraging.

The spaces in ‘Analogue Initiative’ embrace alternative methods, ingredients and technologies to spearhead modern-day bar culture. It boasts a bar made from 750 kg of recycled plastic, tables made from Mycelium, and an entirely plant-based menu. Here are excerpts from a recent heart-to-heart conversation:

As a champion of sustainability in the bar world, how do you define the philosophy behind your work in the field?

Both Native and Analogue think of creative, futuristic and alternative ways to work with, and make the most out of, the ingredients we use to make both food and drink. Building a culture of creativity and mindfulness is key to what we do.

From a bartender’s perspective, how important is the skill of sustainability for the modern beverage professional?

Finding alternative ways to make drinks is an essential skill for the modern beverage professional, which gives them a different paradigm to look at the way drinks can be made and how they can best utilise what would be considered waste, making them more creative.

How does your consumer base relate/ react to the work done at Native and Analogue?

The customers that come to both Native and Analogue are usually intrigued and impressed at the way we look at the drinks and food ingredients. They love to learn about how the drinks are made and the thought process surrounding it.

Do the concepts behind your bars drive business? Or is it more of a story-telling element on floor for the patrons?

We believe that both are equally important. We share with our ideas, traditions and culture for Native and we share this with the methods we make our cocktails and through story-telling.

For Analogue we look into the future in terms of the food chain, materials and accessibility. We look into progressive techniques and share this with our customers via story-telling.

What is some advice you could give to a bar team/ owner looking to venture into beverage sustainability?

The creative process, the refining of that idea to a finished product, one that best highlights the concepts and story of your bar is important. Equally, communicating this to your customer is an interesting way through a talented team.

I highly recommend venues re-look into their food waste by reusing all ingredients and also investing in a composting programme.

How do your bars manage food waste and what are some recycling/ upcycling initiatives that you have undertaken?

For both Native and Analogue we tend to look at things as ingredients and not as food waste and we try to be creative. Any waste that we have can be made into garnishes. We also have a composting programme for our food waste.

How do you feel about the beverage space in India as compared to Singapore and the rest of the world?

To be honest I have not been to India in a long while; the last time was in Mumbai in 2018. On the outside India looks very exciting as a scene altogether. There are a lot of hungry bartenders trying to achieve great things and you are definitely seeing a lot of craft spirits coming into play as well.

How do you manage ice and plastics in your bars?

We still use ice. It is not possible to totally get rid of ice in cocktails at this point. With plastics, we save them aside and we work with different companies here to make coasters from recycled plastics. In Analogue our bar top is made from plastic bottles as well.

What are the most essential practices bars need to integrate into their operations to become more sustainable?

Bars need to stop looking at waste as “waste”. You should be curious about leftovers (skins, peels, seeds) and how to extract flavours into your food programme. It is also very important for venues to start their own composting programme because it helps a lot with food waste.

What are some of your favourite sustainability-driven bars around the world and why?

Lyaness from London and their approach to sustainability is one. Re, from Sydney, does a great job as well.

How do you ensure your teams are on the same wavelength: is it driven by hiring or is training a more important factor?

It is about creating culture, training and also inspiring people to reduce their food waste. We ask people to see the work we do, and people are really inspired by it. A lot of the younger generation we hire are generally interested in the idea of sustainability.