Taking the idea of ‘waste not want not’ to a whole new level, Brothl is an innovative and inspiring café concept that is setting a precedent for sustainable food and dining.
Brothl (yes pronounced ‘brothel’ in case you were wondering) survives entirely on the scraps from the most awarded restaurants around town.
Top restaurants will go to great lengths to source whole animals just so they can carve up the meat cuts to perfection or take the most prized part. Multi-award winning Attica sources whole Marron for one of their signature dishes, only to use the tail. The rest of the delicate crayfish is discarded. Rockpool throws away tonnes of six month aged beef off-cuts and bones every year – some of the most nutrient-dense parts of the animal not being used.
Enter Joost Bakker. Known for his sustainable architecture and outlandish, one-of-a-kind design pieces using industrial scraps, Joost has a passion for recycling and reusing that goes way beyond sorting rubbish into the appropriate bins.
Everything Joost uses must be endlessly recyclable and never become landfill.
It’s this interest and commitment to reducing his carbon footprint that inspired Joost to open Brothl – with it’s own composting system fueled by scraps from nearby restaurants. It serves delicious and highly nutritious broth bowls, slow-cooked for up to 48 hours using the leftover bones, meat and seafood from the likes of Neil Perry’s restaurants.
It all started with a conversation between Joost and Neil Perry.
Joost simply asked Neil “how would you feel about me creating a business based on your waste?” Neil loved the idea, and so away Joost went!
The signature broths created at Brothl are made using rainwater to slowly cook incredible ingredients meticulously handpicked by top chefs from the finest quality animals around Australia.
These are the sorts of animals you wouldn’t expect to be eating very often, since they come from a small percentage of stock and are fed a nutrient-dense, natural diet – not the sort of meat you would find in the supermarket.
You can’t have healthy animals without healthy soil and vice versa
Knowing all of this, Joost was intent on finding a way to use up these ‘meat scraps’ and educating people about the importance of nutrient-dense food.
Joost is a passionate health advocate who in 1996 created the world’s biggest worm farm. He says, “You can’t have healthy animals without healthy soil and vice versa.
“People are starting to realise that our food can have a detrimental affect on our physical and mental health. There are more people with allergies, more children with learning difficulties, more women with fertility issues.”
He wanted to provide the most nutrient-dense food available for the local community to enjoy and also learn more about. Education is key, and as Joost explains, people can’t expect to eat well when our food is covered in NPK (a fertilizer made from gas).
“You get amazing looking food, but you don’t get nutrient dense food” he says.
“In the last few years everything has changed. There was a time in the 70’s when people felt this way about food. I hope this isn’t a trend and this is more permanent.”
Brothl is fast becoming a hot spot in Melbourne’s popular Hardware Street, a buzzing laneway that comes alive with culture, exotic aromas and lively patrons packed into tiny tables.
Their customers couldn’t be more contrasting – from retired couples who come because the food brings back fond memories for them, seated right next to school kids, farmers and migrants who grew up on broth as part of their everyday diet.
“Our customers are pretty educated. Regulars are quite obsessive. We serve people who are gluten intolerant, health practitioners, people recommended by Chinese doctors…”
Brothl is just one of Joost’s ongoing projects to grow awareness for the importance of living in harmony with our surrounds, not wasting anything and nourishing our bodies with healthy nutrient-packed food.
At home, Joost and his family eat from their eatable garden and his children have only ever experienced raw, unpasteurised dairy from local farms.
He was fortunate to grow up on a farm where he enjoyed ox tale broth made by his mother.
A day in the Bakker family household starts with fresh oats rolled by the family’s own stone hand mill, which is served with fruit (poached or fresh depending on the season). Fermented vegetables are a staple, and Joost has his own bee hives for honey and chickens for eggs. His garden is loaded with worms that compost scraps from restaurants and cafés. In the rich soil they grow almost everything they need.
Joost explains that this lifestyle can be enjoyed by any family, no matter where they live. He has built greenhouses all over the country to demonstrate how easy it is to grow food among high-density living. The Greenhouse in Melbourne’s Federation Square was based on the exact same footprint as the average Australian house, and the food grown on its rooftop could feed a dozen households.
Food for thought! What an amazing world we would live in if we all lived sustainably.
It was an absolute pleasure interviewing Joost and learning more about Brothl.
Brothl located at 123 Hardware Street, Melbourne.
Opening hours: 10am – 10pm Monday to Saturday. No bookings are taken, it’s walk in only.