An Irish dinner of 12 courses with a zero kilometre footprint
Wheat for the flour to make the bread, rapeseed for the oil, grapes for the wine and grappa ... all grown at BrookLodge
Evan Doyle (right), with apple growers Rod and Julie Calder-Potts and bar manager Sri Pandalla in the BrookLodge orchard and apiary which will provide cider and fruit juice, apple syrup and honey for the ZEROKM dinner.
One night in early October, or perhaps at the end of September, a party of more than 100 diners will be served a 12-course tasting menu that will be created with ingredients produced less than a kilometre from the restaurant where they are seated in Co Wicklow.
Every single ingredient used, as well as the wine and grappa that will be served, will have been grown, reared and processed, or crafted, at or around the BrookLodge hotel and Macreddin village.
The ZEROKM One Dinner One Night project is the brainchild of BrookLodge co-proprietor and chef Evan Doyle, who has been working on it since February 2016. It is a progression from the farm harvest menu that is served annually in autumn at BrookLodge’s organic restaurant, The Strawberry Tree.
“It is the most exciting, and nerve-wracking food project I have ever undertaken,” says Doyle, who believes that it is the first of its kind in the world. He describes it as “the very first restaurant kitchen in the world to truly produce a complete menu, everything from the wheat to make the flour for the breads, to the sugars required for the pastry, to the wine, the oil, the vinegar, the lamb, the cheese, the duck and much more, all from within one kilometre of the kitchen.”
Doyle hopes that the project will remind consumers “how precious our food actually is ... and that we should all understand the time and labour required to produce our food.”
There is a message for industry professionals too. For the Strawberry Tree kitchen, there will be no ingredients orders sent out to commercial suppliers in advance of this dinner.
“All my chefs have had to input their order six months in advance, so it can be grown, and all are now fighting with each other for every square metre of land. Suddenly it has really become precious and food is precious.”
According to Doyle’s calculations, 25sq m of wheat needs to be grown to produce enough flour, milled on site, for eight loaves of bread. A further 21.5sq m of rapeseed needs to be cultivated to produce a single litre of oil, which will be cold pressed at the hotel.
When the cultivation plans were being laid, there was competition between the kitchen staff for access to the homegrown ingredients, and there will precious little to spare among his team of 20 chefs, more used to abundance. “They’re all going up to weed and water their precious patch,” Doyle says.
The savoury kitchen wanted more of the tillable land turned over to rapeseed, and the bread and pastry kitchens wanted more wheat. “Already Macreddin bakery and Macreddin pastry are fighting as to who gets the most flour,” Doyle says.
In total, 2.5 acres – approximately the size of an international rugby pitch – is being used for the ZEROKM dinner. This includes the land required to produce the milk for butter and cheese at Liam Fanning’s neighbouring dairy farm, and to graze the sheep whose lambs are currently still grazing at Michael Stapleton’s adjacent farm.
Fanning and Stapleton, along with grain farmer Pat Lalor and rapeseed oil producer Kitty Colthurst, are among a core team of experts – growers, farmers and food producers – who have been advising on individual aspects of the project. The others are David Llewellyn (fruit farmer and winemaker); Rod and Julie Calder-Potts (apple growers, cider and apple syrup makers); Silke Cropp (cheesemaker); Denis Healy and Dan Whelehan (organic veg and fruit growers); Farrelly Brothers (butchers), Regan's Organic Farm (poultry), and Freda Wolfe (beekeeper).
The hotel’s walled herb and fruit garden, vegetable plot, orchards, poultry enclosures, along with its two kilometres of hedgerows, and seven beehives, will also contribute vital core ingredients to the 12-course feast.
The reason for the indecision on a final date for the ZEROKM feast is that much of the harvest, and the final finishing of animals destined for the table, is weather dependent.
“At the moment it’s looking like the first week in October, but that might change. Everything really has to come together. We might have to bring it back a couple of days to the end of September,” Doyle said this week.
He plans to make a final call on the date for the dinner in three weeks’ time, and one of the key crops that is in the final stages of ripening is the wheat that will provide the flour for the bread, pastry and savoury kitchens. “This month is important for a bit of sunshine. In three to four weeks we will be harvesting, drying and milling it.”
But not all of the ingredients will be making their way to the kitchen at the last minute. The wine, grappa and vinegar were made last autumn, with the help of David Llewellyn. The 220 litres of blush wine and the after dinner grappa, maturing nicely in the BrookLodge cellars, are also indirectly responsible for the natural yeast, taken from the grape skins, that the kitchen is using to make bread.
Cider made with the hotel’s apples, using a method shared by Rod and Julie Calder-Potts of Highbank Organic Farm in Co Kilkenny, will also be on the table for the ZEROKM dinner.
Seats at the banquet table will be allocated by means of an email lottery
Milk, for butter and cheese making, will be pasteurised in the Strawberry Tree kitchen, and some of it has already found its way into a six-month aged hard cheese, one of three cheeses that will be on the menu. Silke Cropp of Corleggy Cheeses in Cavan taught the kitchen staff how to make these.
A final date for the feast isn’t the only thing that has a three-week wait hanging over it. The allocation of 100 seats at the banquet table, which will be in addition to those reserved for the 12 key producers who assisted with the project, will also be decided then, by means of a lottery. Those interested in pulling up a chair at the dinner are invited to send an expression of interest by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Nobody has asked about the price,” Doyle says, but he expects it to be around €100, slightly more than the price of the current tasting menu at the Strawberry Tree, which is €85 per person.
EVAN DOYLE’S ZEROKM DINNER DIARY
Harvest the grapes from our vineyard and make the wine, grappa and vinegar.
Harvest the apples from our orchards and make the cider and the apple syrup.
Harvest wild rosehips, ceps, sloes, crab apples for sugars, ketchup and pectin.
Convert 0.5 acres with raised beds for all grains, seeds, greens and vegetables.
Plant the spring wheat and the rapeseed required for the flours and the oils.
Seed and pot the greens and vegetables in our south facing conservatory.
Work with Liam and Silke to achieve a six-month aged hard cheese
Erect the poly tunnels for propagation with tomato plants, baby leaves etc.
Start planting in the raised beds with the early start greens and vegetables.
Start planting in the raised beds and poly tunnels with the late start greens and salads.
Work and learn from all our expert friends that have stepped up to assist us.
Start the early harvest of fruits and vegetables that require further processing.