Waste Side Story

How five restaurants are turning waste into wonder

If food waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest producer of greenhouse gases   @tomcolicchio

Roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted every year. Sadly, one of our favorite pastimes, eating out, is largely to blame: 40% of all food waste comes from restaurants. Given that a typical restaurant produces 25,000-75,000 pounds of waste a year, chefs face real challenges when addressing the daunting issue. While there are some obvious leaders out there, like Jose Andres, Dan Barber, Arthur Potts Dawson, and Massimo Bottura, there are many other lesser-known players who you should know about. Here are five chefs and bartenders at the forefront of the trend to combat restaurant food waste:

Pisticci | New York, NY

It’s not uncommon for Chefs to promote their restaurant/farm partnerships, but few go the extra mile to buy a production farm. Not so for Michael Forte, owner of Pisticci, who regarded buying a farm the logical next step to becoming “as close as possible to zero-waste.” Now Forte and his wife and co-owner Vivian collect, compost, and use 100% of Pisticci’s off cuts and plate waste as fertilizer for their aptly named Full Circle Farm, which is a short drive north of Manhattan. As an added benefit, the Fortes use Full Circle’s ugly produce behind the scenes in the kitchen and sell the more attractive counterparts at a charmingly rustic farm stand outside the trattoria doors on LaSalle Street.

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Miel | Nashville, TN 

At Miel, Chef Andrew Coins serves amuse bouches made from kitchen off cuts. Every night lucky diners are treated to single, small bites such as carrot scrap and fresh herb juice shooters or morsels made from whole-fish trimmings including broken scallop ceviche, King Salmon tartare, and smoked sturgeon strudel.

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Balzac | Milwaukee, WI

Steak frites: made from scallion cream, broccolini, frites, and ricotta salata. Created from perfectly fresh and usable ingredients leftover from things that didn’t sell on Balzac’s menu throughout the week. .

An hour or two before closing on Sunday nights, Chef Taylor Bogardus takes ingredients not used during the week and creates a two- to four-course meal with what would otherwise have been thrown away. To make sure there’s nothing left at the night’s end, the price is right: free with the purchase of a drink. Recently, the menu featured Breakfast for Dinner which included an egg white omelet with roasted mushroom stems and unused goat cheese alongside french toast drizzled with a “surprisingly delicious” bacon fat caramel. “ Scraps can make delicious meals if you’ve got the creativity and heart behind it,” explains Bogardus, “ we love thinking outside the box, coming up with new ideas, and knowing that we’re doing it to eliminate waste.”


Honeycut | Los Angeles 

Honeycut mixologist Dave Fernie serves up a series of Waste Not Want Not cocktails, many on draft. Made out of everything from repurposed ginger pulp and leftover lime juice to reclaimed melted ice, they proudly do their damnedest to avoid any waste by trying to run out of a cocktail before refilling the keg.

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Red Star Tavern

Masala Sour made with the egg whites not used in the kitchen.

Red Star Tavern | Portland, OR

When Red Star Tavern  participated in a World Wildlife Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation initiative to reduce restaurant food waste, lead bartender Brandon Lockman began receiving casts off from the kitchen. He now rescues a variety of castoffs such as beet trimmings repurposed as pickled beet garnishes and housemade beet-infused vodka. Lockman gives as well, with citrus rinds being passed back to the kitchen and turned into preserved lemons and egg whites (used for flips and sours) handed over to pastry chef Stacey Needham for custards and handcrafted ice creams.


About the Author:

Jennifer Kaplan MBA is an Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA. She is the author of Greening Your Small Business (Random House Penguin) and writes on subjects ranging from junk food marketing to the bottled water industry. Named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business, you can follow her there at @Jenikaplan.

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