Editor's Note: A previous version of this story has been updated to include the correct location of Woodberry Kitchen and to clarify the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Shell Recycling Alliance.
Many chefs and restaurateurs talk about using local products and supporting sustainability efforts, but few take it to the level of Baltimore restaurateur Spike Gjerde.
The chef of Woodberry Kitchen, a 4-year-old restaurant in Baltimore’s Clipper Mill neighborhood, showcases local flavor whenever possible, which even extends to the décor.
The work of local craftsmen can be found throughout the restaurant. Gutierrez Studios crafted the metalwork for the stairs and railings. Glass blower Anthony Corradetti made the candleholders and light fixtures. And Erik Rink of Artisan Interiors created the bar, tabletops and barista station from salvaged wood.
Gjerde has found many other ways to make the restaurant sustainable. For instance, many restaurants compost, but Gjerde finds a use for almost every piece of waste Woodberry Kitchen produces.
Ash from the wood-burning oven is given to small farmers. All-vegetable compost is ground and partially dried using what Gjerde says is the only liquid waste extractor in use by an independent restaurant in the country. That makes the compost lighter and less messy to transport, so it can easily be distributed as mulch, he said. Non-vegetable material, such as bones and cardboard, is used by gardeners for landscaping.
“We use it around the restaurant as well,” Gjerde said. “It’s a matter of trying to minimize landfill-bound waste and also find productive use for some of it.”
Aiding the local environment
The shells of oysters eaten in the restaurant are returned to Chesapeake Bay, where they help rebuild oyster beds.
That initiative is part of a project by the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Shell Recycling Alliance, which takes the shells to a hatchery run by the University of Maryland. There spat, or microscopic baby oysters, are produced on the shells that the alliance then places in the Chesapeake to grow.