The stats on food waste are sobering. No less an authority than the World Bank said last year that up to one third of the world’s food production billion metric tons every year—is wasted. In the United States alone, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance estimates that 80 billion pounds of food made it to landfills last year.
The positive flip side of those stats is that trash cooking—using the food that would often be considered waste, scraps, or rejects—is hot right now. The National Restaurant Association ranked food waste reduction and management in the top ten of its Tableservice Menu Trends for the year. And well-known chefs like Dan Barber and Roy Choi are making reducing food waste—for reasons as varied as saving the environment to saving money—part of their culinary missions, or even their business plans.
While the majority of food waste occurs at consumer levels, chefs—with their influence and allure—are in a unique position to set a good example. Here are six chefs who fight foodservice-level waste in everything from fast-food chains to Michelin-starred restaurants.
For Dan Barber, the utilizing the unharnessed potential of food waste is a passion. Barber, of the acclaimed restaurants Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, recently ran a pop-up event called wastED that focused on meals made from what most would consider food scraps. A variety of big-name chefs cooked for wastED, making meals with unglamourous-sounding ingredients like beet roots, vegetable peels, and the ends of dry-aged beef.
Along with chef Daniel Patterson, Choi is at work on his newest venture: Loco’l, a restaurant chain that will offer sustainable, delicious food at a low cost. It’s a natural extension of Choi’s work to feed mainstream audiences in cities across the country, and part of the execution of his plan for Loco’l depends on cutting food waste in order to keep costs low. Patterson and Choi plan to do this by integrating what would otherwise be scraps (such as meat trimmings and veggie ends) into the recipes for regular menu items.
This British chef, who found renown operating two restaurants in NYC, is one of the leaders of nose-to-tail cooking—but it turns out that root-to-leaf is close to her heart as well. Her new book, A Girl and Her Greens, celebrates the whole of vegetables, including the skins, tops, and stalks.
Atlanta chef Satterfield’s first cookbook, Root to Leaf, focuses on a seasonal approach to vegetable cooking that uses the whole vegetable, including the parts that would generally end up in the compost bin. He manages to make the approach successful without resorting to crazy recipes or techniques (such as using a spiral slicer to shred ugly vegetables into “noodles”) that mask the character of the food. Satterfield is a participant in Zero Waste Zones, an Atlanta-based conservation project.
This Michelin-starred chef promotes the less-popular (and sometimes downright obscure) cuts of meat, which often have the benefit of being cheaper as well. For Fairlie it’s about more than just saving some money or participating in a culinary trend—it has to do with respect for the animal and the farmer as well. Assiette de porc, made from oft-discarded pig bits like tails, is the best-selling main at his eponymous restaurant at Gleneagles, the Guardian reports.
A pioneer of the veg approach to nose-to-tail cooking, Jordan is the face of the British campaign Love Food, Hate Waste and believes strongly in the economic and environmental benefits of reducing food waste. His book Food Waste Philosophy looks not just at cooking itself but also at Jordan’s philosophy of food and the ways it has affected his life, from childhood to kitchens.
Terri Coles is a freelance writer living in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She’s a recovering picky eater.