This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of Food Management.
Between households, farms, restaurants, and grocery stores, up to 40% of food in the United States goes to waste, a shocking revelation considering the growing epidemic of individuals that struggle to put food on their table. In addition to hunger, food waste is also a major contributor to the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, greatly affecting environmental health. Chefs are a vital part of finding solutions, and the conversation starts with us. We are today’s leaders in promoting the reduction of food waste, and I encourage our industry professionals across the nation to continue building this mindset, so it’s instilled into the standard kitchen culture.
As the vice president of culinary development at Elior North America, I spearhead the culinary innovation and concept development at the company, in addition to the professional development of our chefs. The culinary programs we develop foster a people-first culture and are an extension of Elior’s Doing Good platform, which is focused on food, people, wellness, and the planet. It’s also my responsibility to set an example in the kitchen and remind anyone I come across that whether the efforts are big or small, every one of us can do good things today to make tomorrow a little better.
Here are five tactics to be more waste-conscious in preventing food waste…
- Do Your Research
Take the time to understand where your ingredients are coming from and the businesses you’re supporting. Learn about their harvest period, farming practices, and shipping and manufacturing processes. It’s important to partner with local farmers who have the same goals and ideals. Partnering with local farmers can have many benefits, including helping both parties grow their business while cutting down on environmental impact. Additionally, foodservice operations that team with locally owned farms increase their financial stability, giving back to the local economy.
- From Root to Stem
Tap into your culinary creativity and use the entire vegetable from root to stem. What would be considered as a food scrap and often thrown out, but could be repurposed? Braised for a new texture? Fried for a crunchy garnish? Or pickled for a unique side pairing? Push yourself to rethink how so-called by-products can be used. Think of imaginative ways to utilize what we used to consider food scraps.
It’s all about education. Chefs can learn more about the causes of food waste and how to manage the amount of food loss in their kitchens through more education. The USDA and EPA have created the food recovery hierarchy to help showcase the most effective ways to limit food loss. In addition, chefs can get involved with government programs such as the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge and The U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions. Chefs should also look for inspiration from organizations such as the Culinary Vegetable Institute, which fosters the important relationship between farmers and chefs.
- Trends Turned Toward Healthy Living
Plant-forward eating is no longer a market outlier or trend, it’s become a norm for many consumers and chefs. By reducing the amount of meat consumed and switching to more fruit and vegetable-focused courses, chefs will develop more healthful options and remain competitive and relevant in today’s dining environment where diners are looking for food that provides more than just sustenance. They want something healthy, nutritional and nourishing that will enrich not only their bodies but their mind and spirit as well—all while being kind to the planet.
- Inspiring Others
Let’s change the mindset of how we look at food. A creative way to inspire is through a fun challenge that will promote new ways that culinary teams operate and reduce waste within the kitchen. Incorporate waste-free recipes into your menus, applaud new ideas when they are brought to the table and encourage skilled chefs and young cooks alike to think differently and cook creatively. The power of surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who are dedicated to making progress every day will help establish a culture of waste prevention.
Start small and focus on what you can do today. Connect with peers to discuss techniques and your community to support local businesses. Look at an ingredient differently and see a world of culinary possibilities. As culinarians, we have the power to influence how our clients, customers and guests view every ingredient we bring to the table. It’s our job to use this power to advance culinary practices that reduce waste, benefit our local farmers and ethical producers, and impact our planet for the better.
Chef Paul Basciano is vice president of culinary development at Elior North America.