Time to think of waste as part of the solution

For the past few months, I have had the opportunity to eat out in a number of restaurants, on various continents, to test out my theory on the true level of sustainability with restaurants and hotels. As suspected, chefs believe that they are doing an amazing job at being sustainable. I am starting to feel that there is a lot of green washing going on!

When I begin my inquisition at any restaurant I visit, I get the same reaction. My first question is always “How are you sustainable?” The immediate response is a physical one. The chefs stance grows taller, the chest puffs out; I feel as if I am taking part in a mating ritual. Their first words out of their mouths are always “well, we buy as much as possible that is local and seasonal”. Don’t get me wrong, that is fantastic but there must be more.

When I stare at them with a frozen smile, they then go on with “we try to re-use as much green waste as possible while making stocks. Rather than throwing full carrots in the pot, we use carrot peelings and vegetable off-cuts”. I watch as their Kori Bustard feathers spread a little more, but my smile does not budge. I am sure that the stock practice is part of cooking 101.

Kori Bustard

When I prod a little further, most chefs do not feel the heat but rather continue with their practiced by-line. Either they have found a pig farmer to give their waste to (halleluiah), they are looking into worm farming/bokashi bins(two very different things) or they are inquiring about composting. My question for these chefs, who have all recently opened their restaurants, is “why have they not thought out the entire waste cycle before setting up shop?” When I dare go there, the response is often a muddled one, the kitchen is calling and my time is up.

What I have come to learn is that chefs and their clientele need to change their mind set. When a restaurant is being created, the interior designers, the chefs, the landscape architects and anyone else involved in the process need to think about energy and waste. Why not set up solar panels, waste areas, worms and herb gardens as part of their design rather than it being an after-thought?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!


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