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Vij's

Setting a green table standard

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Vij's

For over a decade, Vikram Vij has been an ambassador of good taste. With his wife and partner, Meeru, Vij's restaurant and recipes have become Vancouver staples.

For over a decade now, Vikram Vij has been an ambassador of good taste. Together with his wife and partner, Meeru, he has been guided by the simplest and purest of principles: to offer a taste of their homeland using the freshest local ingredients possible.

Within a single year of opening their namesake restaurant, Vij’s, in 1994, the duo had captured the curiosity of a grateful clientele and accolades from top critics.

Both born in India with strong familial memories of the foods of their youth, it was not until the early 1990s that they met in Vancouver where the cultures of the world pool and swirl as nowhere else. Married in 1994, they have been sharing their common love for cuisine and
community ever since.

Little–and much–has changed in the intervening years. The original restaurant won its first rave reviews before moving to the South Granville neighbourhood it has graced ever since. With an interior designed to capture the feel of an Indian jewellery box, Vij’s (vijs.ca) was joined by Rangoli in 2004, a second restaurant open for lunch with sleek lines, simpler dishes, and a variety of ready-to-eat fare to take home.

For Meeru and Vikram it was a natural step, bringing them one step closer to the guests who have become family over the years. Currying favour with an approach to Indian cuisine that is at once familiar and innovative, the duo has also recently published a cookbookVij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine (Douglas & McIntyre, 2006).

Over the course of the past year they joined with a dozen other West Coast restaurants in the Green Table pilot program, an attempt to prove the validity of creating a more eco-friendly business model for restaurants of every stripe. Joined by the likes of West, Raincity Grill, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, Curry 2 U, and the Cactus Club, Vij’s has undergone many changes since, and while most of them have been invisible, they have added greatly to their bottom line.

From new water-saving nozzles in the kitchens to low-wattage bulbs and the absence of organic waste in their trash bins, Meeru and Vikram have borne witness to a simple fact: the colour of money is greener than ever.

While sourcing local ingredients has always been part of their culinary mandate, they have found themselves connected to even greater seasonal sources of edible opportunity. They credit the Green Table Network with turning a personal philosophy into a long-term, good business strategy.

Helmed by food writer turned culinary crusader Andre LaRiviere, the Green Table Network (greentable.net) has since evolved into a fully functional, one-stop solution shop for restaurateurs looking to tap into more sustainable, progressive futures.

“It works for everyone involved: the restaurateur, the customer, and the planet,” LaRiviere explains. “By focusing on responsible sourcing, finding ways to reduce a restaurant’s energy consumption, and promoting sustainable initiatives, the Green Table group has found success across the table.”

New clients are emerging daily. Performing benchmark reviews of a restaurant’s inputs and outputs before compiling a list of opportunities tailored and time-lined for practical application, the Green Table has effectively set a course for sustainable success.

Buoyed by a three-pronged mandate of social, environmental, and economic benefits, in the span of one short year, the details are revealing. By implementing even the small changes, the Green Table participants have seen some inspiring results:

  • directing over 50 tons of organic waste to compost, a benefit to both the health of local farmers’ fields and gardens and a savings for the taxpayers
  • using 300,000 fewer litres of water
  • conserving 30,000 kilowatts of electricity and 1,000 gigajoule of natural gas (in green speak this equals roughly five tons of greenhouse gases or the average annual impact of a typical Canadian)
  • saving close to $1,000 each in total operating costs

What makes the Green Table Network initiative even more interesting is its reception and positive results. At a time when films such as An Inconvenient Truth and The 11th Hour are striking home the importance of changing both the ways we consume and do business, Green Table offers a palatable opportunity for betterment that serves everyone: the restaurateurs, local farmers, guests, and the greater community.

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