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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Culinary Edition

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Culinary Edition

               If you ever took a middle school environmental science class you have probably heard the term “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” This “three R” mantra of environmentalists everywhere is also very applicable to restaurants, and chefs around the country. According to the U.S. Department of agriculture, an estimate of 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in the United States goes to waste each year. That’s a lot of food, and a lot of money going straight in the trash. These days, restaurant owners, and chefs are making a conscious effort to minimalize their food waste, let’s take a look:

               One popular and effective solution is composting. Composting, which is the process of making food or other matter into compost, or decayed organic material, is a great solution for anyone trying to reduce waste. A compost station is not only easy to set up but they can be as large or small as one wants, making it the perfect solution for a single restaurant, or an entire city. For example in 2015, Seattle made it a law to fine people who don’t compost their food waste. Although most cities haven’t placed fines on composting, they have jumped on the composting bandwagon. From San Francisco to New York City, composting has become a popular trend. Not only is composting effective because it reduces food waste, but it also creates rich soil that can be used to grow fresh ingredients, proving to be a win-win situation for any chef or restaurant trying to reduce waste while simultaneously serving the freshest ingredients.


               Another solution being used by chefs and restaurants across the country seems pretty obvious, but if actually applied can effectively reduce waste. This solution is simply to rethinking what is waste and what is not. The old saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” definitely applies in this case. There is a huge variety of dishes you can cook with food items that may seem like they should be discarded. For example, bones can be used to create broth for soups and stews, or the skin of the potato can be used to make “alternative French fries.” Simply thinking outside the box, and rethinking what is waste and what is not is a great way for chefs and restaurants to save a ton of food and money; and who knows? Maybe your recycled dish will become your most popular.

               Lastly, it is extremely important to plan ahead. Whether you order your ingredients on a weekly basis, or biweekly basis take the time to see if you are buying a surplus of food. While some waste is inevitable, take note of how much food was thrown out the week before and then decide if you have ordered too much. This process might take a few weeks to figure out and is not always the most effective, but it does show an effort to reduce food waste.

               The amount of food wasted in the United States is a huge issue that has been around for a long time. Although it is unrealistic to think that chefs and restaurants will be able to eliminate their food waste completely, it is crucial that we are conscious of this issue and are always trying to reduce as much waste as possible. Composting, rethinking how to use ingredients, and being aware of how much food is being ordered are only a few examples of how to fix this issue. “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” shouldn’t be taken lightly in the culinary industry. Being mindful of food waste not only helps the environment, but it will also help increase annual profit for chefs and restaurants; which in my book is a very valid reason to be aware.