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To prevent food waste: reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink

Food waste is a top priority. Resources abound for rethinking how we use food. It’s just a matter of tapping into the food industry’s innate ability to create and collaborate.

Up to 40 percent of the food grown and processed in the United States never gets eaten. This is a shocking statistic. Thankfully, it has prompted us into action. So much so that reducing food waste is at the top of the food industry’s priority list, foodservice included.

There many ways foodservice can participate. We can reduce the amount of food we prepare and serve so it doesn’t get wasted. We can reuse and repurpose uneaten food, and we can recycle and compost where possible.

To rethink how we use and prepare food should be on our radar as well. What most of us love about being food professionals is creating new and different ways to enjoy eating. So why not put that creativity to use by preparing the parts of food often discounted, discarded or considered less than ideal. 

From culinary colleagues to industry, resources abound for teaching us how to rethink how we use food. Here are a few examples to get us started.

NPRC

Pumpkin raspberry muffins from the National Processed Raspberry Council. Photo: National Processed Raspberry Council

Raspberries

Who doesn’t want to cook with perfectly ripe red raspberries? While we love the sweet taste, floral aroma and beautiful color that raspberries bring to food, they are quick to bruise and spoil and so aren’t practical in the foodservice setting.

So how do we treat our customers to raspberries without waste?

“Red raspberries are a very fragile crop,” says Tom Krugman, Executive Director, National Processed Raspberry Council (NPRC), Lynden, Washington. “Minimizing waste starts with the trip from the farm to the freezer/processor. Most of the fully ripe berries are processed within hours because of the short time between harvest and freezing.”

The industry processes raspberries into multiple formats for use in foodservice and consumer packaged goods, including puree, concentrate and individually quick frozen (IQF), a method where each piece of fruit is individually frozen so ice crystals don’t form and pieces do not cohere. They are frozen at their peak of nutrition and preserved with no chemicals or additives, just cold air. 

These raspberry "crumbles" are a good example of using food in its entirety. Photo: National Processed Raspberry Council

NPRC

NPRC has hosted operators on a harvest tour as well in conjunction with conferences and events. At these events, they teach foodservice professionals about how to use the different product formats, including the two grades of IQF red raspberries, Grade A and Grade B. Grade B has more broken pieces, and are often referred to as “crumbles.”

“Foodservice is a good market for this product,” says Krugman. “Whole berry identity isn’t always necessary and broken pieces can provide better/consistent distribution in baked goods or when sprinkling on top of recipes as a colorful and nutritious garnish.” 

In addition to their hosted events, NPRC has a website page dedicated to sharing resources with health and culinary professionals so they can learn about the versatility of processed red raspberries and foster innovation of their use. Resources include a flavor guide, buying guide, culinary demonstration kit, video series, and more.

Their website also shares recipes to spark your creative fire, including these that look just perfect for foodservice: Pumpkin Raspberry Muffins; Raspberry Pineapple Salsa on Roasted Salmon and a Raspberry Ginger Sweet Tart (beverage).

California Walnut Board

California Walnut Board

Roasted walnut and cauliflower tacos take advantage of light amber walnuts. Knowing which type of walnut to use for different applications can cut down on food waste. Photo: California Walnuts

Walnuts

People are eating more walnuts these days, thanks in part to the body of research showing their health benefits and their culinary versatility. The California Walnut Board wants consumers to enjoy all walnuts and is working with food professionals to teach them how.

“California walnuts are sold according to size and color, ranging from light to amber color, with the lighter walnuts being the most popular for aesthetic reasons,” says Juliet Greene, Senior Corporate Chef for Charlie Baggs, Inc. and Consulting Chef for the California Walnut Board. “But the difference is more than just color. Light walnuts offer earthy tones, mild flavor, subtle tannins and are widely available. Light amber walnuts have a more robust flavor, smooth/round tannins, a slightly sweet finish, and can be a more economical choice.” 

Chef Greene helps consumers and culinary professionals understand that knowing the difference in the flavor variations of light and light amber walnuts can make a difference in recipes. She suggests toasting light walnuts and adding them to baked goods and breads, pureeing for dressings and sauces, blending for walnut milk, and sprinkling them on salads. The more robust flavor of light amber walnuts lends well to grinding/chopping them to be used as a meat replacement, toasting and pureeing for soups and gravies, pairing them with rich chocolate desserts, and finely chopping for crusting/frying. 

The California Walnuts website hosts an abundance of resources for foodservice professionals, including recipes. A few callouts where light amber walnuts are recommended include Roasted Walnut and Cauliflower Tacos, a California Walnut Chorizo Frittata, and a Walnut Pepper Crust, which is a seasoning with many uses, including as a crust for animal protein, as an omelet filling or potato skin topper, and as sandwich and wrap spread.

“Proper storage is also key to preserving the taste and flavor of walnuts, and ultimately getting the most out of walnuts,” says Jennifer Olmstead, Marketing Director, Domestic Public Relations, California Walnut Board & Commission, Folsom, CA. “Walnuts can go rancid when exposed to warm temperatures for long periods of time.”

Olmstead recommends the following tips for foodservice professionals to prevent walnuts from going rancid and being wasted. Once the sealed packaging has been opened, transfer walnuts to a sealed airtight container to keep air out and maintain freshness. If using right away, store walnuts in the refrigerator. If storing for a month or longer, keep in the freezer. Only shell, chop or grind walnuts as needed, so as to maintain their flavor.

California Walnuts hosts industry Chef Summits to educate about the versatility of walnuts and inspire innovative recipes and applications. They will also work with foodservice operations to do gap analysis and help the culinary team utilize walnuts in a way that supports their unique menu development needs.

Chefs Collaborative

Chefs Collaborative Board Member Derek Wagner butchering monkfish at the 7th Annual Chefs Collaborative Summit in NYC. Photo: Chefs Collaborative

Fish and Meat

Nose-to-tail cooking came on the culinary scene several years ago. The Chefs Collaborative, a non-profit network with the mission to inspire, educate, and celebrate chefs and food professionals building a better food system, is taking sustainability in the kitchen to the next level.

“Our vision is that sustainable practices will be second nature for every chef in the United States,” says Holly Haddad, Executive Director, Chefs Collaborative, Cambridge, MA. “To this end, we emphasize sustainability and minimizing food waste in our Food Waste, Seafood Solutions and Meat Matters programming, which takes place online throughout the year as well as in person at our Annual Summit and regional events across the U.S., including Trash Fish and Meat Matters events.”

“All of our hands-on workshops focus on whole protein and plant utilization,” says Alisha Fowler, Special Projects, Chefs Collaborative.

This includes hosting culinary labs at the Annual Summit, where chefs have the opportunity for hands-on learning in other chefs’ kitchens. Chefs Collaborative also hosts special events in culinary-focused venues in cities across the country.

“Just this past April, we held an event at the Institute for Culinary Education where chefs Derek Wagner (Board Member, Nicks on Broadway) and Michael Cimarusti (Providence) butchered underutilized species of groundfish from the east and west coasts and demonstrated techniques for reducing food waste and increasing yield,” says Fowler.

Other events included a Bristol Bay sockeye salmon workshop in Boulder, Colorado, where Chef Kelly Whitaker (Basta) showcased a fun and delicious way to use salmon skins by creating salmon skin chicharonnes. Sixteen restaurants followed suit by participating in a Sockeye Restaurant Week.

For Meat Matters, the program that educates chefs about the issues surrounding meat production, Chefs Collaborative recently hosted a goat butchery demonstration and tasting dinner with five chefs and their November 2016 Chef Power Hour was a Meat Matters industry update.

The Chef Power Hours are monthly conference calls that gather experts, journalists, and chefs around the table to discuss critical issues in our food system. The calls are posted online, along with resources for taking action, so that chefs and food professionals can access information and learn at their own pace.

The August 2016 Chef Power Hour focused on What Chefs Can Do About Food Waste, which, according to Fowler, “offered practical techniques and tips for food professionals such as beginning with tracking your food waste to better inform ways you can adjust your purchasing, preparing, and post-usage decisions.”

Hadded quotes some of the ideas shared by Chef Steven Satterfield (Chefs Collaborative Local Leader, Miller Union) during the Chef Power Hour. “Capitalize on potential waste. Create specials that celebrate diverted waste into flavor.” Examples cited by Satterfield include making apple jelly from apple trim scrap, frying carrot peelings to use as a garnish, and saving pork scraps to make sausage.

The food and culinary industries are innately creative and collaborative. We don’t have to recreate the wheel with respect to rethinking our food. Let’s just remember there are resources out there to contribute to and receive from.

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