Clementine Guillois is passionate about art and the sea, and when she opened her first restaurant, Peska, to offer “beautiful things at an affordable price”, making it a sustainable place was a no brainer to her! Willing to bring a new concept to her city, she decided to focus on sustainable fish and adopted a global sustainable approach to have a positive impact.
Welcome to Chefs for Impact Clementine!
By Clementine Guillois as told to Chefs for Impact
Interviewed by Elodie Levrel
How do you define sustainability?
I think there is a notion of globality, it’s not only about the food itself. We have to take into consideration the people, the carbon emissions, and the customers as well - what they want and why!
As far as a restaurant is concerned, I think sustainability is about being able to understand what is bad both for the planet and for humans to ingest, and also find solutions to compensate for all the wrong that was done in the last 30/40 years in the food system.
For example, the big industrials have emptied the oceans by catching all the young fishes, preventing them from reproducing. And this has made the prices go up like crazy! I have seen it in less than 3 years for the black seabream. Insane! That’s the opposite of sustainability! That’s why it is so important to serve sustainable fish, and there is a matter of saving our jobs and industries in the long term too!
The younger generations have lots of work ahead! But I’m optimistic, we’ll get there! The sustainability topic is spreading, it can’t be ignored anymore.
And if we ask more questions, if we raise the topic more and more, including when dining at restaurants, maybe things will change!
Do you think that educating customers on the produce, the food, is part of the restaurant owners and Chefs’ responsibilities?
The way I see my job is to feed people, to be a “passer”.
I’m going to the farmers market to choose the produce, then we transform them and then we “pass” them to customers who receive them. It’s all about transmission!
A physical transmission with the veggies, the fish, the fruits, we bring in the plates but also an educational transmission.
We shouldn’t get into a moral lesson, I don’t like that, but to me it’s key that we give our clients the opportunity to ask questions and for us to take the time to answer them.
For example, some of our clients don’t know about Ikejeme, so I explain it and they are curious to learn more and pleased to try the fish.
Do you always explain your approach to all customers?
Yes! Peska is a small place, so I very often have the time to explain why there is no sea bass this month, nor salmon or sole here or why you cannot serve oysters mid-August here!
And the feedback is very seldomly bad. I find it very encouraging, more and more people are paying attention to this.
There are only 3 mains on the menu here. Two years ago, people sometimes commented it wasn’t enough, but somehow now they seem to actually feel more comfortable that way, they understand better that if you have a long menu, you can’t cook everything properly with fresh ingredients ! At least, my customers here are more and more sensitive to these topics.
How do you choose what fish to put on the menu?
I work with 2 fish “resellers” and I speak with them everyday. They know what we are after and call us when they have special fishes that we could be interested in.
We also use Ethic Ocean Species Guide (a European professional guide for professional to give guidance on the most fished species through a sustainable spectrum … )
It’s super interesting and a bit like the Bible at Peska!
How important is the relationship with your suppliers ?
Very important! The connection, the human relationship is key to me! When the farmer explains to you that you need to caress the carrot and not peel it for XYZ reason, it’s magical. It makes me want to cook it, to taste it, to serve it!
We work with local farms and suppliers as much as possible. And for products that don’t grow in Brittany (cacao for instance), we choose sustainable and ethical options.
It takes time to find the right suppliers, but little by little we’re getting there!
Also the price is key, as much as you explain to customers that the price is also the reflection of the work of the winemakers, the fishermen, the farmers… it still has to be affordable for the customers.
What is your next move towards more sustainability?
Since we’ve reopened, I’m focusing on waste management. It’s a very new thing to me! We’re working with a small local start-up that has developed a composting system: they pick up scraps and food waste from small restaurants that they compost to sell to local farmers. That’s great! Especially as we are a small structure so we can’t benefit from the municipal system.
We’ve also started working with a small company that sells only in bulk, with reusables jars. We’ve reduced our use of plastic by 80% already! Exciting!
And what I find really exciting about this is that it creates a local network of small companies. No big projects but lots of small steps into the right direction.
Also, during the pandemic, with ten other restaurateurs in Rennes, we’ve written a manifesto to engage and act towards a more sustainable gastronomy in the city. We’ve listed the items and actions we will work on: produce sourcing, a more social aspect (like more respect to the employees), but also trash management, all the other products we use (from bulbs, to cleaning stuff, ink for the receipts, etc). Lots of small ideas that, put altogether, make a great list to refer to when you want to be more sustainable.
The manifesto - called Nourritures - has been signed by 10 restaurants who committed to follow the guidance and improve their practices within 12 months. It’s great to be working together in that direction with others from the industry! Any restaurant that is willing to commit to the manifesto is more than welcome to join.
How do you imagine the ideal restaurant of the future?
Small! Franchises are over. I see small Maisons, human-scaled, that buy from people who produce at a small scale, locally! Yes, I’m convinced this is the future!
What would be your tip for a restaurant owner who wants to be more sustainable?
Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues to understand what is already done locally, or somewhere else and that you could implement where you are.
And don’t feel bad if you can’t do everything right at once! It takes time. Maybe making a list of the things you’d like to improve in your sustainable journey and review it at the end of the year. Our jobs are already stressful enough, it’s ok not to make everything perfect the first day!
What is your dream?
What I wish more than anything is that we can finally value the fish species that are currently undervalued so that they are served in all restaurants. These species are very good, but our collective psyche tells us they are difficult to cook, I’m telling you they are not!
And that we don’t see Turkish farmed sea bass in restaurants in France! And that the gross farmed fish, full of hormones, is prohibited!
That would be very nice! I would be so happy if in 50 years we can eat scad fish and mullet in the small bistrot round the corner!.
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Photos by Claire Auffret and Elodie Levrel