Rene Redzepi has a lot to answer for. It’s not as if he was the first chef ever to go out and forage for ingredients, but he is absolutely the person responsible for bringing it to the mainstream. After pretty much every food writer and journalist wrote their version of the ‘I went foraging with Redzepi’ article, foraged ingredients are listed on menus everywhere from your Michelin-chasing white tablecloth establishment, to gastropubs.
Today, there’s a huge focus on addressing food waste. Dan Barber of New York’s Blue Hill recently ran a pop-up at Selfridges dedicated to using food waste, and signed up a long line of guest chefs that brought along their own dishes comprised of various food items that would usually be thrown away. Barber utilised unloved and forgotten bits of food and transformed them into crowd-pleasing dishes. Marinated and shaved lettuce stubs, fried salmon skin and a burger made from beetroot pulp were just a few of the dishes created for the WastED pop-up.
Taking a slightly broader approach to waste, the acclaimed Silo in Brighton has designed the business from the ground up to be as close to zero waste as possible. Produce is delivered in reusable tubs, which are given back to their local suppliers and every scrap of food waste is composted where it can’t already be used for a culinary purpose. There are intriguing food preparation methods at play here, seaweed and seawater used for brining and marinating, as well as a whole plethora of pickles and ferments.
The team behind Silo have even partnered with Professor Arielle Johnson, formerly of Noma and The Nordic Food Lab to open a similar establishment in London later this year by the name of Cub. This rising trend of addressing food waste could almost be seen as an extension of the whole ‘nose to tail eating’ as championed, if not pioneered in a modern day sense, by British chef Fergus Henderson.
And perhaps that’s where this sits most comfortably. A sensible, economic approach to running a restaurant that harks back to frugal times. The mere fact that the dining public now find this interesting, intriguing and are choosing to support it with their patron, is only a good thing. In many cases, kitchens can actually improve their margins.
So does it all come down to a push for marketing? The sceptics among you may say yes, but with a growing concern for the environment, and consumers looking to do the right thing, the playing field for promoting food waste initiatives in the kitchen displays abundant opportunity.
Whether you begin to create pickles and pastes from unwanted vegetable and fruit scraps, or start looking at better, more interesting ways to use up leftover trim, fat and skin, the kitchen has nothing to lose.