Yum Jar & Zero Waste Pantry
Yum Jar is owned and run by locally grown chef, Ottilie Smith. After training as a chef at Weltec School of Hospitality, and working in various roles across the fast-paced hospitality scene of Wellington, Ottilie decided to challenge the status quo with her new business idea. The huge amount of food and packaging waste, and the lack of consistent and well-paid work for hard-working hospitality staff, were both huge incentives, so she decided to tackle both of these issues at once, no easy feat!
Yum Jar's Zero Waste Pantry is still run by Ottilie full time, with the help of 3 part time staff: the kitchen/packing dream team Em and Thomas, and our deliveries star Matt. As a part of Ottilie's vision, all staff are paid above the current living wage for their hard work.
How it started...
Yum Jar officially started in January 2019, but was an idea brewing for a long time before then in the back of Ottilie's mind. Hailing from Christchurch, and with over 15 years in the hospitality industry, Ottilie has worked her way through some of Wellington’s best-known vegan-friendly establishments from waitress to barista, kitchen-hand to sous chef. Before, during and after completing Level 4 Cookery and her City & Guilds certificates at Weltec School of Hospitality, Ottilie worked for local kitchens Midnight Espresso, the Botanist and Seize Café.
After a while, Ottilie wanted to start something new and different that was her own creation. Dissatisfied by the waste created by takeaway food services, the lack of affordable, healthy options around the city (especially for people with plant based and gluten free diets), and a personal drive to make a difference, Ottilie started jotting down ideas for a business that would one day become Yum Jar.
She began to save and collect large glass jars from her job and eventually had about 20 sitting in her cupboard with which to start her idea. Mid 2018 she left her full time sous chef position and set about crafting recipes and trialling them on her friends and family. Word spread and eventually the trial group grew to over 150 'taste testers'! Ottilie applied for and was accepted into WINZ’s ‘Build your own Business’ Flexiwage course, and with their help as well as her friends’ talented design and website development contributions, continued taste-testing, and moral support, Ottilie opened Yum Jar for business in January 2019.
During and after the COVID-19 lockdown, business for Yum Jar was hard, with many people working from home outside the delivery zones Ottilie could reach in the limited range of the electric car. She did some research, and quickly pivoted Yum Jar, turning it into a food box delivery service now known as 'Zero Waste Pantry'. Continuing to create zero waste food, but delivering multiple meals worth of ingredients, packaged in jars, along with quick, easy recipes and fresh ingredients. This was a hit with her former customers, so it has stuck as the business's main focus - but she hopes to re-start Yum Jar lunches again further down the line!
Yum Jar Ethics/Morals/Practices
Paying a Living Wage
Yum Jar's creator, Ottilie, has worked in the service and hospitality industry in nearly all roles imaginable for over 15 years. More recently she has worked for prestigious local restaurants in key roles, such as being the sous chef at a busy cafe in the CBD until mid 2018. She also has a qualification from Weltec in Level 4 Cookery, which includes international City and Guilds qualifications. In any hospitality role; kitchen hand, waitress, maitre d', barista, night chef, baker, commis chef, or sous chef; despite experience and work ethic, she was never paid more than $20/hr. It's not that she never asked for a pay rise. Minimum wages slowly rose, as the cost of living rocketed up each year. But unfortunately the economics by which the hospitality industry seems to run don't tend to favour the staff on the ground, who often work long hours, have few breaks, work double shifts, public holidays, and often end up sacrificing their health and social lives all the time just to survive in the industry, which, financially, doesn't add up over time. I'm talking about the people, who just like you are passionate about their work and even love their jobs, and work full time, sometimes 60 hour+ weeks, but just aren't getting the wages to match their hard work, like their friends in the professional world often do.
Yum Jar is still small and has had some help from the WINZ Flexiwage scheme starting up. We are gradually growing, thanks to our wonderful customer base spreading the word through their offices, friends and families. We now are a team of 3 and all our employees earn above the living wage, which is something we are very proud of!
We are committed to not employing anyone else until we can pay them at least the current living wage, whether they're a delivery driver, kitchen hand, cleaner, admin staff, or chef. We want to pay people what they're worth, and foster a sense of respect and equality between all staff. Hospitality is a challenging business, and we know this will be tough, but if it can't be done, then there's something seriously flawed in the system. And that's something that has to change.
As of November 2021 we are proudly Living Wage Accredited!
Zero Waste Packaging
To date (01.11.21) we have saved over 30,000 meals' worth of plastic, single-use, disposable, "compostable", and "biodegradable" packaging from being used, transported, or even needing to be produced. And from our kitchen we are putting out just one single house-hold sized bag of unavoidable rubbish per week! We compost any food scraps and paper at Edible Earth Gardens in Porirua, and recycle our tins, any #1-2 hard plastics, and glass with Porirua Waste.
Why do we care so much about this?
Well, to start with, most kiwi rubbish (and recycling) isn't going anywhere. It's being used once, thrown in a bin or a recycling bin, transferred to the dump, sorted, (some recycling sent to recycling plants or places to sit and wait to be sent away or processed), and mostly put into landfill, that goes... nowhere. It just sits there, getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Being a small country, you might think our waste is small. Well, sure, if you compare us to other Western countries, that's likely true. But unfortunately, we are one of the top offenders in the world per capita when it comes to waste.
Our recycling used to mostly get shipped to other countries like China. But in 2018 China did not renew its recycling company import licences, putting a huge halt to their intake, which has had a huge impact on New Zealand. We used to export $21 million worth of recycling per year. Now, with our own recycling facilities overloaded, it has nowhere to go, and, like landfill, just sits there. So while it's still great to recycle in theory, we are still using and creating too much recycling and rubbish for ourselves to keep a handle on.
What about biodegradable or compostable packaging?
Unfortunately we don't yet have the infrastructure in Wellington or NZ to have compost bins on hand everywhere like we do rubbish bins. And unfortunately, when you throw the biodegradable or compostable stuff in the rubbish.. it just goes to the rubbish too. And even if it gets composted, most of these solutions are only biodegrade in commercial composts, and at the moment most of these composters refuse to accept bio packaging because they rely on making profit from selling the compost they make from out food scraps.. We hope more residentially compost-friendly packaging gets created ASAP, but even then, it is inconvenient to take your dirty packaging home, so, most people don't. And so many homes don't have composting solutions. And even if they do have one, if all they have is packaging in their compost it's not going to have enough nutrients to create a very composty compost! And so on and so forth!
Another issue is the actual creation of the stuff that gets dumped, recycled or composted. The creation and transportation of these single use items also has a negative effect on our environment that could be avoided. In other words, it's all a waste!
There are countless articles on the internet damning humanity and harking the end of the world in under 50 years, but that's not likely. The reality is that life is just going to get a lot more difficult, especially for those whose lives are already circumstantially, financially, or emotionally tough, so, pretty much anyone except 'the 1%' who can literally afford to trash the planet, because they think they can buy their way out of it with a profit.
Basically, for most of us, there is no "planet B!"
We as consumers must change our habits. It IS possible. And every bit counts. Every person's actions has an impact. If they didn't, we wouldn't be in this predicament to start with! It IS hard, and it is scary, but we have to try.
Yum Jar hopes that by running our small business we can help people like you reduce your environmental impact and support a movement to more sustainable ways of living - and make it easy, delicious and enjoyable!
For more info and help on zero and low waste living, check out our amazing friends over at The Rubbish Trip !
Plant Based Menu
You may have noticed that we don't use any animal products (meat, dairy, seafood, poultry, or honey) in our Yum Jar recipes. Cutting out animal products can do a wealth of good, for both your health, the wellbeing of animals, and for the environment.
There are plenty of resources out there with further information, but we know it can be difficult to separate facts from fiction in the internet of things and memes and 'sources', so we recommend looking up our friends at the Vegan Society of Aotearoa - check out their hugely useful website for detailed information and plenty of helpful links about how to live life without animal products.