WastED, a pop-up restaurant dedicated to food waste, opens today in Greenwich Village. Starting tonight, chef Dan Barber has suspended dinner service at his farm-to-table Blue Hill Restaurant to host this pop-up, where all-star chefs including Grant Achatz, Danny Bowien, Mario Batali, Dominique Crenn and Alain Ducasse will create menus with ingredients that are usually thrown away. WastED will run through the end of the month, with a menu of dishes devised from leftovers such as stems, peelings, rinds and bones.
"I want to use a chef's creativity and technique to transform ingredients that we don't think of as edible and delicious and turn them into something that's coveted," Barber told NY Eater earlier this month.
At its most basic, Barber’s project is a celebration of unloved ingredients and an examination of the daily food waste that chefs experience in kitchens. It's about using the carrot tops, the pickle butts, the offal, the fish bones and the kale ribs. Skilled chefs around the world for thousands of years have perfected working with and manipulating seemingly unusable ingredients, and Barber thinks this is the time to shed a light on those skills.
Barber's team has a few dishes already decided: a stew of kale ribs made with pockmarked potatoes and unlaid eggs, and bagels and lox made from the salmon bloodline (the gray, typically unused part of a smoked salmon), pickled beetroot roots, and "rejected horseradish." Barber also promised veggie burgers made from the pulp left over from juicing, and fried skate wing cartilage. All dishes will be $15.
Barber’s experiment explores inefficiencies at every part of the food chain from the field to the processor to the vendor. In addition to famous chefs, Mr. Barber is featuring dozens of producers, distributors and retailers, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison Plant Breeding Department, Acme Smoked Fish, Anson Mills and Jasper Hill Farm.
The idea is also that customers will bring ideas from wastED into their own kitchens and reduce the amount of food they throw out each meal.
"If this is done right [it will] broadcast a message about how chefs, and restaurants in particular, can bring about a cultural shift in how we think about producing enough food to feed a growing population," said Barber.
In 2013, the Sustainable Restaurants Association (SRA) revealed that UK restaurants produce 21 tons of food waste a year, nearly fives times as much per meal as the average UK household. The Association then put forth an initiative called Too Good To Waste, which supplied eco-friendly doggie boxes for restaurants to give to diners for their excess food, encouraging them to take home leftover food to eat later.
But restaurants aren’t the only culprits; waste is rampant throughout the entire food value chain, from producer to consumer, and more and more initiatives – from packaging innovations to campaigns promoting “ugly” produce to extending product life by just one day – are emerging to try and tackle it.