Since Openlab moved into the newly renovated building at KTH’s campus in 2015, Open Café has run the café with focus on quality and sustainability. As of April 26, Open Café now leaves room for new restaurant suppliers on the premises. Emma who has run the café since the start looks back on a fun and intense time at Open Café.
Open Café’s concept is about serving good and sustainable food. It is a part of the Lux Restaurant family. The café is Krav-certified and works with sustainability at all levels, from purchasing ingredients to how they handle food waste.
Emma Townsley is Open Café’s café manager since the café opened. Before she started working at Open Café, she ran her own café on Sibyllegatan in Stockholm, with a similar concept – organic produce, plant-based and homemade, but on a smaller scale, so Open Café became a step forward.
– From the start, we have focused on organic, vegetarian and sustainable, but there were also greater ambitions such as having a compost machine and grow crops in our own soil. When we started, the business was transformed a little and we noticed what worked and what didn’t. We are still Krav-certified and we try to think sustainably in everything we do.
If Emma was a food dish, she says she would be a mix between a luscious lentil stew, jam-packed with nutrition, vegetables and spices, and a healthy salad with an element of surprise.
– I might be two different ones, one with colleagues and another with the guests. I would like to be the stable stew with my colleagues and then surprise the guests, chat and make jokes and be more easy going.
Emma sees the time since Open Café started, in January 2015, as a fun, developing and intense time, with meetings with many interesting guests.
– It has really been developing. The concept has evolved and I believe the customers have developed with us. I myself have developed as a colleague and leader as well as with my cooking and my ideas. It has been full speed all the time, with orders, guests and lunches. At the same time it has been really lovely, especially chatting with the guests at the counter!
Openlab has not only been renting out space for the café, but has also had a number of collaborations and projects together with Open Café. One of them is Science dinner.
– Science Dinner was a fun concept that linked research and food together. Why do things taste like they do etc. It was fun to be involved in shaping and developing the project. Science Dinner Food Market was also very fun, when we invited a variety of producers and manufacturers to exhibit lots of fun new products and new raw materials.
Food, sustainability and innovation are things Emma thinks go hand in hand. The food world is changing and it is important to question things and think in new ways. She is grateful that the café guests have been so open to try new dishes.
– The guests have really been wonderful in that way, they are receptive and open to new innovations. They have encouraged us to come up with new fun dishes and ingredients and want us to continue to work sustainably. We can, of course, bring in lots of new ideas and recipes but if the customers do not want it, then the business will not work. It has always been important for us to have the balance between innovation and sustainability and good food that people want to eat at the café or try to cook at home.
An important part of the café’s sustainability work is to think circularly and reduce food waste at all stages.
– It is a big problem in the restaurant world that you generate too much food waste. One problem is that everyone wants to have perfect products so suppliers have difficulty selling so-called second-class products.
These second-class products can be fruit and vegetables that have little brown spots, are not rinsed in the same way or have a short date and risk being thrown away. Open Café has bought much of these products to reduce food waste in the early part of the chain. They try to reduce the amount of waste both when preparing the ingredients and influence how much the guests throw away, for instance by offering a second serving only if the guest first finish what is on their plate. The waste that still remains is sorted as food waste and becomes biogas.
– Our work with food waste has been a successful part of our concept, says Emma.
One of the things Emma has appreciated the most working with Open Café is to be able to make an impact.
– I think we have actually made a difference here with the products we have used, the way we have chosen to work, and maybe we have influenced the way our guests think about food. It has been amazing! Although we are not 100% plant-based, we make a difference with the food we serve, and we hope we have inspired our guests to think about their habits and try some new things they’ve tasted in the café. Some guests come back and say that they have tried the recipes at home, it is fun to know that people have liked what we have done and that we have made a difference and have been able to influence people’s everyday lives.
Among the dishes Open Café served, Emma has several favorites. She has liked the noodles a lot, and the soup. Open Café’s lasagna definitely ends up in the top.
– Our different types of lasagna that we have made over the years have been very good. It is fun to take a dish that may not be the most exciting for people and come up with new variations. There are also so many steps in lasagna so you have to start thinking about the dish several days in advance, making the different sauces, roasting vegetables and so on. Therefore it is also a dish with a lot of thought and logistics behind it, which is fun.
After the Open Café closes, on April 26th, Emma will continue to work in the food industry and with food waste through the company Food Loopz. She will work with business contacts, but she believes that she will miss the the encounters with the restaurant guests. Emma plans to study part time, and in the autumn she will also have a child.
Emma and Open Café would like to thank all the guests.
– We want to thank everyone for trusting us every day. It’s been great fun! It feels like a lovely fun family here at Openlab, we have always felt welcome and that we have been part of the team. But as with everything, the time comes to move on and find new fun things to do!
We at Openlab are incredibly happy and grateful for the years together with Open Café. We have been impressed by the creative dishes, a sustainable way thinking and all the lovely individuals in the staff. Many thanks to Emma, Open Café and Lux Restaurants.
After the summer we open the doors again with a new concept and new owner, under the name of the Restaurant Lab. Welcome back then! More info at therestaurantlab.com