Local Lebanese restaurant creates a circular sauce from ‘wasted’ garlic by partnering with local farmers

Layla Saleh immigrated to Canada from Lebanon and soon had a desire to share the richness of her culture. The Grandmothers in her village would sit around together creating such flavorful dishes from their local ingredients. Layla and her partner, Joe Hamiz, decided to open their own Lebanese restaurant, Retour Bistro, here in Guelph to continue with the tradition of flavor. They continued to apply traditional Lebanese cooking practices like plant-based ingredients and utilizing every part of an ingredient, so nothing goes to waste.

When they discovered the Seeding Our Food Future Program (SOFF), it was a perfect fit to continue their efforts to reduce waste. With the guidance of their mentor at Provision Coalition, their project focused on turning garlic sauce into a circular product. Since the garlic is ground up into a sauce, they did not require the standard size of garlic cloves found in most retailers. Retour Bistro has partnered with a local garlic farmer to use their “unsellable,” smaller garlic for their traditional garlic sauce. This local partnership not only helps reduce the amount of wasted garlic that farmers cannot sell, it also reduces emissions by sourcing locally instead of importing from other areas. Retour Bistro is also planning on selling their circular garlic sauce for customers to enjoy at home as well.

Along with the garlic sauce, Retour Bistro is committed to reducing the amount of waste in their packaging. With the help of SOFF, they were able to reduce the amount of packaging waste going to landfills by 95%. They did so by transitioning their packaging from styrofoam containers to almost entirely compostable or recyclable materials. The SOFF program has helped Retour Bistro become more circular whilst highlighting some of the traditional practices of Lebanese culture like reducing waste.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels