Kitchen waste, and more importantly how we dispose of it, has been an issue for restaurants for decades. While big steps have been made to cut packaging and tackle customer leftovers (shrinking portion sizes, sending waste off to anaerobic digestion plants, etc.), there has been less emphasis on tackling the refuse produced in the prep and cooking process.
According to WRAP, almost 20% of food bought by the foodservice industry in the UK is thrown away, which, aside from the obvious environmental impact, costs each outlet an estimated £10,000 a year.
The tide is turning, however, with chefs like Dan Barber of Blue Hill in New York and Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, making waste ingredients the centrepiece instead of chucking them in the bin.
At Barber's wastED pop-up at Selfridge's in London last year, he served a menu showcasing items we'd usually throw away, such as fish and chips made with bony fish and discarded potatoes, and a juice-pulp burger using leftover vegetable pulp from a juicer.
This year, the waste issue is likely to remain on our plates, with chefs looking at ever more creative ways to cut out the rubbish.
Chantelle Nicholson, chef patron of Tredwells, London, makes kimchi from cauliflower leaves: “We use a lot of cauliflower at Tredwells, but after the Planted Tasting Menu we ran in November, I had an abundance of them. Being a big fan of kimchi, I thought I would try using them to make it, rather than the usual Chinese cabbage. I use half of the leaves as a garnish, by pickling the spine of the leaves and then deep-frying the green leaves. To make the kimchee itself, I blend together fresh ginger, garlic, salt and Korean red pepper powder, then massage it into the leaves. I then leave it to ferment, at room temperature, for seven days. It tastes amazing and is slightly nuttier than the cabbage variety.”
Arnaud Stevens, owner of Plate Restaurant & Bar, London, uses beetroot trim to make a chilled soup: “We currently have pickled Cheltenham beetroot on the menu. We slice kilos of beetroot raw and cut them into small discs before brining and pickling them. The way we cut them means we have some excess, so we use that and the beetroot peelings (the trim) to make a chilled soup. We cook down the trim and chill it before serving with a miniature gluten-free Marmite bread and yoghurt spiced with cumin. The umami flavours from the Marmite, sweetness of the beetroot and salty spice of the cumin are a match made in heaven!”
Nadia and Nick Stokes of Gourmet Goat at Borough Market, London, use high-welfare rose veal from UK farms that would otherwise be discarded: “Veal is the by-product of the dairy industry, and so we should be eating more of it. As long as it’s rose veal, which is an indicator of the calves being treated and fed properly, it should be on your table. We offer it slow-roasted in three different ways: inside a handmade organic sourdough flatbread; in a bulgur wheat pilaf bowl and in an East Med salad bowl. We coat the meat in our homemade baharat spice mixture and drizzle it with organic grape molasses before slow-cooking for hours until the meat easily falls apart. The slow-cooked rose veal’s rich flavour and delicate spicing balances perfectly with our smoky BBQ sauce – which has a distinctive warmth from fermented Kurdish pepper flakes – and the refreshing creamy homemade tzatziki.”