Against food waste

Even fine dining can contribute to a more intelligent and sustainable consumption of food

16-09-2014
The beautiful dish called Solaris –portrayed by

The beautiful dish called Solaris –portrayed by courtesy of its author, Pietro Leemann – is an example of how you can profitably use all the parts of an ingredient, in this case tomato seeds. Lisa Casali tells us how even chefs can offer virtuous examples and precious lessons on how to reduce food waste

The economic crisis has had at least one positive effect: we waste less food. Indeed, waste has undergone a significant reduction in the last few years, both for economic reasons and as a consequence of various initiatives across Europe that were aimed especially at making consumers aware. The home sector, in Europe, represents 42% of the food waste, producers 42%, the restaurant industry 14% and sales 5% (both wholesale and retail).

Restaurants are undoubtedly very careful to waste as little as possible, first of all for economic reasons. However, there’s still a small percentage of waste, mostly due to a purchase of products that exceeds the demand, and left overs on the plate.

What are the best practices for a more efficient use of food? I asked three chefs for whom environmental sustainability is a daily matter collecting their experience and recommendations: Alice Delcourt (Erba Brusca), Igles Corelli (Atman), Pietro Leemann (Joia). They all agree in saying that reducing waste starts from the choice of very fresh and seasonal ingredients and from a planning of the menu that should consider the use of all the products available, including waste products.

Leemann, for instance, has three dishes in the menu of Joia that give value to three parts of the tomato (pulp, skin and seeds) because each element needs to be interpreted as an ingredient and can find a use that will give it the highest value. For the confit cherry tomato sauce the tomatoes are peeled and emptied, the skin becomes a crispy chip similar to a petal, used to garnish a vegetable cream, the tomato seeds, finally, are the protagonists in Solaris, a summer vegetable terrine.

Tomato skin chips – photo by Vincenzo Lonati taken from La cucina a impatto (quasi) zero – Gribaudo

Tomato skin chips – photo by Vincenzo Lonati taken from La cucina a impatto (quasi) zero – Gribaudo

According to Delcourt even limiting the number of dishes in the menu, together with a good flexibility in the offer, can be of great help in managing the purchase of raw materials in the best possible way. Corelli, has always been a true master in the art of using even the less noble parts by considering them just like “richer” ingredients. He’s a chef who’s not afraid of challenges and his earth stock, made with the end part of mushroom stems is a true explosion of taste. Another preparation that characterises him, is the vegetal powder he obtains from skins, stalks and leaves, capable of adding taste and colour in an almost impalpable way.

What if waste depends on consumers’ bad habits? An interesting initiative is that of inspiring clients to reserve in advance, a habit that is less common in Italy than in other countries, but which is awarded at Joia with a discount of up to 50% if the reservation is made 3 months in advance. As for the problem of waste in the dish, another practice we could import to Italy would be that of introducing at least two types of portions or at least a half portion. Of course this problem affects fine dining less but it could be useful to allow the client to choose based on his appetite. Finally, stimulating clients to take any left overs home could lead to positive effects, even though it requires the overcoming of a particular reluctance that is typical of our country.

The B side of food – photo by Vincenzo Lonati taken from La cucina a impatto (quasi) zero – Gribaudo

The B side of food – photo by Vincenzo Lonati taken from La cucina a impatto (quasi) zero – Gribaudo

Finally, what are the recommendations of our chefs for home cooking? Buy the right quantities and make an effort to plan the menus weekly, in this way it will be easier to manage the provisions and optimise the consumption. It is important, moreover, not to underestimate food preservation. In particular, Delcourt recommends to dedicate at least one day a month to preparing stocks, sauces to freeze and anything that is left over in the fridge in order to have them ready when necessary. Corelli suggests using the drying technique to preserve for a long period and transform all the vegetal waste that cannot be otherwise used in the kitchen. This, combined with the use of vacuum, can allow a very long life for products.

Finally, they all agree that one needs to experiment at home and to dare without any fear because this is the only way in which the great classics are born.


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Tecniche, ingredienti e iniziative della ristorazione attenta all'ambiente e agli ideali di Expo 2015, viste da Lisa Casali