Follow the road least traveled and interesting, often beautiful things can happen. Like Amass, that opened off the beaten path, on the outskirts of Copenhagen. In a remodeled warehouse, with an outdoor garden, open planned interior and street art on the walls; yet with a feeling of modern country-urban elegance. Chef and owner Matt Orlando enhances the setting with a menu ‘chained to the seasons.’ He worked up through some of the most innovative contemporary restaurants: Per Se, The Fat Duck, then Noma, before setting out on his own. We sat down with Matt to talk about his journey, philosophy ~ and the Amass staff meal tradition.
I chose the name Amass because to have a restaurant is a gathering of so many different things, aka, amassing people, products, emotions, ideas, etc.
Chefs have so much power these days, and if you don’t use that for something constructive then you’re abusing that power. My ultimate goal is to be able to help teach and inspire others to continue to use good practices; that will have a positive effect on the environment. We are 100%-certified organic here, and have a huge zero waste and sustainability program. Since the day we opened, we have managed to pull back the amount of waste going out by 75%. We even take the candles and re-melt them to make fire starters. All used water from ice baths or cooking gets used again, to clean the floors or water the garden.
As I was rising through the ranks in the kitchen world, I thought staff meals were only served to fuel you for service. It wasn’t until I went to Per Se, where chef Jonathan Benno was obsessed with staff food! If you were put on staff meal and messed it up, it was almost worse than messing up during service. That was when I began to think it was a really important element: to feed your staff well. Although it was really nice staff food, there wasn’t a true sense of having a break, you got a plate and ate on the go.
When I was at Noma, and the staff began to grow, staff food became a very important focus. And I began to understand the benefits of it, and of giving the staff time to have a break and properly enjoy their meal.
We sit down on Saturday night and map out the staff meal schedule for the week. Typically we do two vegetarian staff meals, a day with fish and two to three with meat. We look at what we will be cooking in the restaurant, and what trimmings can be incorporated. We also get a list form our butcher of extra cuts we can get a good rate on, and use these as well. Everyone in the kitchen weighs in on what we will be cooking. Every staff meal is then delegated to a chef in charge of that meal, so if there are any questions you know who to go to.
We want the Staff Meal to be not only nutritiously satisfying, but also mentally satisfying.
When I was looking for a location, I wanted a place that, when the staff took their break, there’d be a connection to nature. Which is why I love this area out in the back. Our property goes to where the grass gets tall. It really is a great place to relax and recharge.
Staff meal is served at 4pm, and we give everyone a break until 5pm. We work together for a long time each day, and sometimes you want to be by yourself. It’s important to be able to get off your feet and sit. We don’t force anyone to eat together: it’s their time, so they can take their food wherever they want.
When you hear a staff member sit down and let out a sound of delight for their meal, that’s the most satisfying sound and feeling to me. Because when you go into service after a good meal, this feeling carries into the work you do.
Matt, Jens, David, Kim, Max, Mike, Eliot, Alex
Julie, Bo, Emil, Olivier, Cat, Simone, Henry, Admin, Kim, Evelyn, Louise
Thanks to Colin Goedecke, The story developer