Bo.lan, an award-winning restaurant and among the top 50 in Asia, is founded on the belief that the best Thai restaurants should be found in Thailand. Bo.lan prides itself for working closely with local farmers and feels that it has a social responsibility to the local community. It is committed to having a zero carbon footprint. Chi Lo spoke with Chef & Co-Owner Dylan Jones.
CHI: Your restaurant has been widely acclaimed and has been named one of Asia’s best restaurants. To what do you attribute your success?
DYLAN: I think the reason we have had success in the past is that we had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve and a clear set of morals and ethics by which we operate. We have never compromised these things and I think people see that we are genuine in what we hope to offer.
CHI: Striving to become zero carbon is a big deal. What has inspired you to set this goal, and what measures are you taking to achieve it? How do you address food waste in your restaurant?
DYLAN: This is a constant challenge for us but one we feel most responsible for. Basically our food systems are struggling to keep up with demands society is placing on them. Our ever-growing climate crisis has in part been caused by the industrialization of our food and supply chain, not to mention the globalization of our diets. At Bo.lan we have taken several steps to ensure that we minimize our environmental impacts. From sourcing locally and organically, to having a comprehensive upcycling program for our food waste, installing energy efficient equipment, reducing the use of single use plastic, using recycled or upcycled materials for the building and decorations, in house training of staff about these issues…
CHI: What challenges are you facing/have you faced along the way? What is the biggest challenge in balancing ‘green’ & luxury?
DYLAN: I don’t think there is a need to balance green and luxury, a massive misconception is that something that is environmentally sound isn’t luxurious. This doesn’t need to be the case. The issue is all in the design and presentation. I honestly believe that in the future the two things will actually be synonymous.
CHI: I agree this is a common misconception! Thank you for addressing it. Do your diners recognize and commend you for your efforts? What is some of the feedback you’ve received? Do you believe your socio-eco consciousness has helped to drive traffic to your restaurant?
DYLAN: It’s fantastic when diners recognise our efforts and commitment to sustainability and the environment. As much as we’d like to think that’s the driving factor for people eating at Bo.lan, it’s not. We live in a society that wants to tick the boxes everywhere they go. In a sense, I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that we are a box to be ticked, but really would be much better if people just slowed down and enjoyed the moment they are in.
CHI: Thai food and food security are issues that are very important to you – why, and what are you currently doing to bring awareness to them? Can you also talk a little about your relationship with the local community and eating responsibly?
DYLAN: Food security isn’t an issue it’s a right of every human being on this planet. However, corrupt corporations and governments the world over have hijacked our food systems and have mislead everyone in thinking that industrialization of our food chain is the way forward. The real issue is one of distribution and education. Thai food is a very special cuisine developed slowly over centuries and in tune with the natural cycles, Working with local food communities is the only way we can ensure a sustainable food system. By “sustainable,” we mean for the producers and growers, for the environment and for the customer. Eating responsibly isn’t just limited to organics and sustainability, you can eat the most sustainable beef out there, but if you’re eating 10 kgs of beef a week, it really defeats the purpose. We should all be focusing on eating less meat and more whole foods that are grown locally by a person or community.
CHI: In your opinion, what is the outlook for food security and food waste in Bangkok/Thailand, and what can the industry do to assure the best possible outcome?
DYLAN: Some days if I’m being optimistic I’d say there is real improvement and people are really starting to understand the importance and consequences of the decisions they make. And at other times it’s like we are looking at the dark ages where the government doesn’t even educate or encourage people to recycle. I think the industry as a whole has a huge responsibility to drive change in Thailand, and many in this industry are in a fortunate position in which we have access to the upper echelons of Thai society through our restaurants. The most important thing we should do is to continue to educate the future of our industry on best practice. The only real advice I’d ever give and this goes towards everything in life not just sustainability and waste: is never give up and always fight for what you believe is correct.
CHI: That’s a great note to end on. Thank you, Dylan! We’ll make sure our readers make a reservation for Bo.lan the next time they’re in Bangkok.