Waste Not, Want Not

Stafford DeCambra

By Stafford DeCambra, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC

In its annual What’s Hot survey of ACF chefs, the National Restaurant Association determined that “zero waste” is a top trend in the foodservice industry for 2019. While I agree that the topic is and should be top of mind right now, I would argue that it is something we cannot think of as a “trend” any longer.

Reducing food and packaging waste is one of the easiest ways to reduce our carbon footprints and stem the tide of climate change — something that, unlike the latest trends, is here to stay. Unless we get serious about reversing it. And if anybody can work under pressure like that, it’s chefs.

There are traits that, despite our varying backgrounds, are part of the DNA of what it means to be a chef: our love of food, our passion for making others happy, and our abilities to multitask and think creatively when the heat is on. These constants carry us through the long shifts; they bring us together on the milk crates at the end of a long night, somehow still laughing when a rough service has us at our breaking point.

Annually, humans waste 1.3 billion tons of food — more than enough to feed those who are hungry in all corners of the world. Chefs have the unique power to change that. We know when an onion is still safe to eat, even if we have to peel off a layer or two.Using typically discarded leaves and peels in inventive ways isn’t just something we know how to do — it feeds our creative drive and our passion for feeding people.

Reducing the food waste in our kitchens is just the first step, however. The next step is to teach our communities how to do it, too. Chefs can lead the charge on this issue in soup kitchens, local schools and anywhere else people are cooking, eating or learning. Because we’re not only natural creatives, we’re natural teachers and leaders, too.

Of course, making big changes in kitchens, communities, hearts and minds is going to be a challenge. Fortunately, a challenge is also something chefs love. Bring it on.

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