The stories behind a dishes conception have long held interest in food service, particularly in high-end establishments. Even in the fast-casual restaurant space diners’ interest is peaked with mentions of regional cooking styles and exotic ingredients.
But the landscape is changing, and conscious consumers are becoming increasingly more interested in the responsibility and sustainable nature not only of dishes on your menu, but in how your restaurant operates.
Perhaps one of the first Chefs to push food waste and sustainability into the mainstream is New York’s Dan Barber of Blue Hill restaurant. Barber is a name synonymous with vegetable trim. Rather than relegating carrot tops, peel and skin to the stock pot or compost heap, Barber coaxes intense flavour and new life from these off-cuts to a Michelin star level. His WastED pop-up at London’s Selfridges featured items like crisped fish skin, and a burger made from the pulp leftover in juicing machines.
Closer to home, Brighton’s Silo is an award winning café and restaurant whose eco measures are something to be envied. The restaurant has a zero waste policy and as well as fitting out the dining room with completely upcycled materials, food is delivered in reusable vessels and the small amount of food waste that is generated goes into a composting machine that feeds local allotments.
Every chef and restaurateur wants to increase yield and keep wastage down to a minimum, and right now the market is ripe for innovative, thrifty plates. Fergus Henderson went a long way to inspiring chefs to cook with offal more, but that nose-to-tail ethos can be put to fish and vegetables too.
Tom Brown of Cornerstone in Hackney Wick has taken to curing fish parts to create ingredients like cod fat caramel and swordfish bacon. Meanwhile, as the wellness market continues to expand, the more yield we can achieve from fresh produce the better.
And working with local food waste organisations is a step many restaurants are taking. At Wild Harvest, we work with local charity City Harvest, donating surplus and leftover food to be distributed to organisations that help feed the hungry.
Sustainability moves are taking place across the industry with everything from locally brewed beers made using discarded sourdough bread, to ready-to-eat sandwiches empowered with a sustainable impact. But there’s something we need to remember, the story.
You wouldn’t forget to inform your customers that an ingredient is organic, or that it hails from a superior region, so be quick to inform guests about food miles and the sustainable credentials of dishes.
It takes a creative and thoughtful approach, but with increased yields and new flavours and textures to be gained, it’s a common sense practice that the market is ready for.