One of the top goals for operators in 2017 is a zero-waste kitchen. Composting, trayless dining and ramped-up recycling efforts are all positive steps in the effort to reduce waste. But some operators are taking a route that's more cost effective and culinary focused—repurposing food scraps such as vegetable stems, meat trim and ugly produce into new dishes and drinks. Here are five ways to give discards a second life on menus.
1. Repurpose sandwich fixings into soup
At Santa Barbara City College in California, Executive Chef Carrie Mitchum makes stock from irregular pieces and scraps of vegetables, including carrot tops, onion peels, celery leaves and parsley stems. The stock is used a base for several of the cafeteria’s soups, including split pea. Mitchum adds leftover smoked ham and other deli meats from the sandwich line to the pot to give the soup a characteristic smoky flavor.
2. Flavor water with fruit peels
Hoover Hall, the newest dining center at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., exhibits several strategies to reduce waste. One of the simplest and most effective: infusing tap water with leftover fruit peels. The infused water is served from dispensers at the agua fresca bar.
3. Fill Chinese dumplings with vegetable scraps
Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings, a Chinese restaurant in New York City, is filling dumpling skins with bok choy stems, zucchini ends and carrot ribbons bound together with peanut-ginger sauce. The idea came about through a collaboration with Dan Barber, chef-owner of Blue Hill in New York City, who launched his WastED popup in 2015, serving a salad, burger and other items created from ingredients that would normally be tossed in the garbage.
4. Turn cheese rinds into a high-end appetizer
Chef Nicolas Delaroque of Nico restaurant in San Francisco saves the rinds from a variety of cheeses he uses for cheese plates and entrees. When he has collected enough to create the flavor profile he desires, he chops up the rinds and simmers them gently in milk for several hours. Once the milk is infused with flavor, the cheese pieces are drained and the milk gets thickened with gelatin as the base for a cheese mousse appetizer.
5. Rescue ugly produce
Compass Group USA launched an Imperfectly Delicious Produce program to encourage its foodservice accounts to use misshapen and bruised produce in recipes. Morrison Community Living Executive Chef Juan Acosta, who runs the kitchen at the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a retirement community in Woodland Hills, Calif., purees odds and ends of spinach, cauliflower, mushrooms and other vegetables as the base for cream soups and finely slices tiny potatoes and broccoli into salads and stir-fries.