Photo By Troels Böye

First European restaurant that serves surplus food

11 November Nov 2015 0753 11 November 2015
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It is called Rub & Stub, and it is in Copenhagen. It is a restaurant where surplus food becomes a dish. In the kitchen, two chefs prepare different menus based on the food that is donated by suppliers. Rub & Stub is a project promoted by the Danish Refugee Council.

The first restaurant in Europe that fights food waste lies in the heart of Copenhagen, cooking meals with surplus goods from the food industry.

It is called Rub & Stub, which translates as “all, without exceptions”. This is the philosophy of the restaurant: to use all the food, without wasting anything.

Two chefs prepare different menus every day according to the surplus food that is donated by suppliers. Overall, a team of more than 100 volunteers manages the restaurant, backed by only 4 paid people: the two chefs, the head of personnel, and the project coordinator.

This non-profit restaurant opened in 2013, and as of January 2015 has been project managed by the Danish Refugee Council , in order «to encourage innovative voluntary work».

Sophie Sales, co-founder and volunteer at Rub & Stub, explains how the restaurant was born inside Huset -the first and biggest centre for culture in Denmark - and how it combines the art of cooking with sustainability.

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Sophie Sales

Where does the surplus food you use come from?
We get our supplies from small local shops, farmers, producers, and local bakeries. We deal less with supermarkets: I think that small shops and producers find it more difficult to throw food away than the supermarkets, because they have personally done a lot of work to produce the food,

- What kind of food do you receive in donation?
Both food that is close to its expiry date, which producers and shops don't sell, as well as fruits and vegetables that cannot be sold for aesthetic reasons: because they have the “wrong” shape, size, or color.

- How can chefs organize meals every day without being able to plan the dishes in advance?
They have to be very creative in preparing the meals with the different ingredients that they have at their disposal every day. Then, besides the food that we receive, we have to buy some products to complete the dishes, like spices for instance. It is also important to communicate with our clients, as often a dish on our menu can sell out quickly.
All this would be unpleasant in a “normal” restaurant, but here it is exactly the opposite! We tell our clients: «Thank you very much and congratulations for having helped us finish all the surplus food: now we can bring the other dishes!». We use irony, and we're playful with our clients.

- Who are the volunteers who work at Rub & Stub?
Most of them are young Danish students, but we also have some students coming in from all over the world. Some people volunteer so they can learn how to cook in a more flexible way.
In the kitchen there are people of different ages who find working in the restaurant a good way to relax. The atmosphere in Rub & Stub is very warm and funny, and we can proudly say that the members of our staff are the kindest in Copenhagen.

- What kind of exchange do you have with Huset, the centre for culture you were born in?
Huset is the first and biggest centre for culture in Denmark, and on every floor you find representations of a variety of alternative and underground cultures. Sometimes we cooperate for events: for example, when there is a film screening at the cinema that tackles issues surrounding sustainability or food waste, we print a single ticket that serves as both a cinema ticket, and a dinner reservation at Rub & Stub.
We also organise campaigns to raise awareness on projects that need financial support, by selling tickets for dinner and a show at Rub & Stub. The proceeds then go on to support these projects.

- Rub & Stub is a project promoted by the Danish Refugee Council...
As of January 2015, Rub & Stub is part of the solidarity projects supported by the Danish Refugee Council.
They have just signed the contract with Huset – KBH to save surplus food. I think that the Danish Refugee Council wants to learn from how we motivate and organize our volunteers to use our concept, so they can implement it in other similar projects that they are developing, such as the bars and restaurants managed by voluntary refugees that have sprung up all over Denmark. I think that we can work together and help to inspire them: thanks to this partnership, Rub & Stub now has new possibilities to do bigger things.

- What is the aim of the project?
First of all to make people think about how they act in everyday life. Then, to help them be creative and learn how to cook with what they have in the best way possible. If we want to look at the final goal of the project, this would be for there to be no more need for the Rub & Stub, because there would be no more surplus food!

Cover photo by Troels Böye

Rub & Stub photo gallery:
The first 4 pictures are by Sophie Sales
The last 2 pictures are by Pernille Gregersen