The writer of this PGF Story is Laura Bonds.
Dory, a tasting-only restaurant owned by Dave and Amanda Krog, wasted no time implementing a zero waste program for their business. In the spring of 2020, Dory was on the cusp of opening when COVID-19 hit and plans to launch ground to a halt. Shipments began to delay and products they were relying on suddenly weren’t available. Feeling the financial woes of a new business unable to generate an income, the Krogs did what they do best: they got creative.
As an alternative to the restaurant’s opening, they hosted a pop up dinner in a downtown warehouse, which lit a spark; they recognized Dory could operate as a tasting-only restaurant, a realization of a longtime dream Dave had but never thought would become a reality. By having a pre-selected menu, they could find a workaround to the COVID shipment delays and could significantly reduce the amount of waste they produced in the kitchen. Several months into the pandemic, Dory began serving small parties and now is open to the public as Memphis’ only restaurant devoted exclusively to multi-course tastings. With the extra time to prepare their business for opening, the Krogs refined their zero waste program and identified ways to repurpose ingredients that would keep Dory fresh and unique.
Dave and sous chef Brandon Burke are intentional with ingredients. They want to produce the highest quality product and give Memphis a tasting experience unlike anything else in the city. When products they ordered were affected by delayed shipping, they relied on their creativity and relationships with nearby farmers to find solutions. “When forced to be creative it trains better chefs.” Dave said. “It trains you to use produce you wouldn’t normally have used.”
The creativity coupled with their zero waste program ensures the chefs use everything in some form. When planning their rotating, seasonal menu, the team seeks out interesting cuts of meat and finds unique ways to use parts of animals others usually avoid. “We use the whole cow or the whole pig,” Amanda explained. “For us, it’s about the amount of damage we’re doing,” and by using all kinds of cuts, they get maximum use, not only the prime cuts which utilize a small portion of the animal.
Repurposing scraps is also an important element of Dory’s kitchen. Fermenting and freezing vegetables suspends their life and gives the kitchen team time to ideate unique ways to repurpose those vegetables and their scraps. As the culinary duo began hosting soft openings with small groups of patrons the tasting menus were tested. Because Dory is a planned-menu experience that accommodates dietary restrictions, those restrictions often lead to new ideas. Brandon handles most restrictions and it’s his on-the-spot thinking that saved them when a customer came in and explained an unexpected vegetarian diet. After that night they learned the necessity of gathering restrictions on the front end, but the resourceful thinking is applied to each new dish they craft.
Other culinary inspiration comes from farming relationships Dave holds dear. “There’s a 100% chance if it’s on the plate it came from someone we know.” Working with a small and selective group of farmers, Dave influences what they plant and plans ahead for his menus. This is a unique model, as chefs frequently rely on what farmers have in stock and build a menu based on that. Working with farmers to plan the crops and the menus where they’ll be used eliminates potential waste in the kitchen and offers a positive financial impact since no produce goes unused.
For Dave and Amanda, Project Green Fork and Clean Memphis provide a much-welcomed direct line of communication during COVID. As a Project Green Fork certified restaurant, they have the benefit of relying on the expertise of Clean Memphis to make recommendations of additional ways to help the environment through their business. A wine bottle recycling program and no plastic use are two other ways Dory positively makes its mark on the environment.
The Krogs derive personal satisfaction from their zero waste program and efforts to lead a sustainable business. They hope the work they do to put creative and environmentally-thoughtful food on the plate will become the norm for other restaurants. Within their own eatery, they hope to inspire the next generation of restauranteurs. Bringing in young, talented chefs like Brandon is part of the Krogs’ plan to continue the trajectory of conscious cooking and education about running a restaurant.
While the pandemic initially brought problems for the Krogs and Dory, Memphis’ first tasting-only restaurant was born from it. There will be obstacles that arise, but the flexibility and creativity required to launch and run this business during the pandemic ensure Dory will continue to trailblaze and lead the way for other restaurants to adopt zero waste programs and inspire culinary brilliance.