Fill bellies not bins: Famous British chefs share their secret food waste tips

Eating & Drinking
5 minute guide

From Raymond Blanc OBE to Neil Forbes, the UK's best chefs share their insider tips and recipes to combat food waste in your kitchen. 

Tom Tanner 14 March 2019

Even in some of the most luxurious restaurants on the planet, and they don’t come much for fancy than Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, there are chefs beavering away on new creative ways to ensure that their fabulous ingredients end up on the plate rather than in the bin. 

Food really is too good to waste and most of us know it. It’s just that sometimes our eyes can be bigger than our tummies, plans change, or the bottom drawer of the fridge becomes way too scary to approach.

Fear not, six chefs, at the top of their sustainable game, have taken time out to share their tricks of the trade, some of them close to food alchemy, to help home cooks everywhere be masters of the art of using every last scrap and drop.

6 insider food saving tips and recipes from the UK's best chefs

Find recipes that call for whole produce

Raymond Blanc OBE, President of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, learned the mantra, “You shall not waste”, from his mother, Maman Blanc, from a very early age: He’s taken that ethos into all of his kitchens and is a huge enthusiast of dishes that use the entire ingredient.

Raymond adds: “Try to find recipes that use all or most of the produce. For example one of my favourite dishes for this is pumpkin soup. One pumpkin will serve 4-6 people. We use the entire thing. The skin is used for the stock, the seeds we toast and use as garnish and the flesh for the soup. Delicious!”

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Even Raymond Blanc OBE prides himself on saving food from waste

Make zero waste, vegan friendly mayonnaise

Down on Devon’s beautiful south coast, chef Tim Bouget’s beach side café is a million miles from the Michelin starred Le Manoir. But their philosophy is shared.

Three-time Sustainable Restaurant of the Year Cafe, ODE, uses every trick in the book to make sure that every plate it serves has a minimal impact. Tim’s parsimony and creativity are great assets in this quest. It can be easy to hyperbolise about food tricks, but Tim’s does come close to alchemy.

“One of our favourite vegan recipes here is a chickpea and vegetable broth in which you can use up lots of leftover vegetables. When you open up the tins of chick peas, be careful not to pour away the water. Aquafaba, as it’s known, is a brilliant alternative to egg whites and makes excellent mayonnaise while using something you’d have otherwise poured down the drain.”

Zero waste, vegan friendly mayo recipe

Here’s how: Take 4 tablespoons of chickpea juice, a pinch of sea salt or teaspoon of soy sauce, a tablespoon of cider vinegar, half a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon of English mustard and 300ml of rapeseed oil. Add all the ingredients, except for the oil, into a blender. Pulse three or four times to blend and then start to blend slowly, gradually drizzling the oil in until you have the right consistency for your mayonnaise.

From an all-round sustainability point of view, you’ll be winning two ways with this recipe – it’s waste-busting and vegan!

Aquafaba, as it’s known, is a brilliant alternative to egg whites and makes excellent mayonnaise while using something you’d have otherwise poured down the drain

Turn crumbs into crackers

Of the terrifying 10m tonnes of food wasted in the UK every year, bread is a big loser. 

Incredibly we throw away almost half the bread we buy, close to one million tonnes, because we don’t get around to using it before it goes stale. You may already have a freezer full of breadcrumbs, so how else can you use up the rest of that loaf that’s on the turn?

Rob Howell, chef at Root, in Bristol has one excellent, simple suggestion born of frustration of binning delicious homemade bread at the end of service.

“We make all our own bread in the restaurant now but sometimes find we’ve baked too much and after the staff have all had a bit at the end of the night, we leave the rest in the hot cupboard. Then we blitz that in the food processor, add some flour, a few sesame seeds and some butter, make it into a dough and roll it out. You can then bake that and hey presto – you’ve got some lovely crackers.”

Rob’s a big advocate of the addictive and rewarding nature of discovering new ways to use food you’d previously have discarded.

“It does take a while to realise what you can do with leftovers and then it suddenly starts to click and then you become really proud of what you can do and how little you’ll waste.”

Read our review of Root here.

food waste tips from famous chefs

Can you turn breadcrumbs into crackers like Root in Bristol?

Reuse those rinds

Open up your food waste bin and apart from the end of your last loaf, the likelihood is there’s a pile of peelings, skins and rinds. Food waste evangelists like Jareth Mills at The Roebuck in Borough, London, have a straightforward solution. “Stop peeling your veg!” he says. “That even applies when you’re mashing potato. You don’t need to peel it, it’s edible and it’s where you’ll find most of the nutrients. Centuries ago people used to eat the peel and throw away the middle.”

“If you do insist on peeling your potatoes then use the peel to make a soup with the green bits at the top of the leek and you’ll find it has a real roast potato flavour. My final tip on skin is actually rind – cheese rind. We make a goat’s cheese terrine using a log and used to take off the rind, so it has a smooth texture. Then one day I realised what a waste it was. Now we batter the rind, deep fry it and serve with truffle honey over the top and it makes a perfect appetiser.”

food waste tips from famous chefs

Keep the peels on says Jareth Mills

Make friends with fermentation

The shelves of many a kitchen are now piled high with a multi-coloured cornucopia of jars of pickles and preserves. For fermentation is the friend of any chef or home cook who sees peel, skin and rind as a bounty to be cherished.

“It’s a great way to use up any vegetable trim or peeling that’ll provide you with a delicious pot of fermented goodness that you can use as a snack, side salad or sandwich chutney,” says Oliver Gladwin, who along with his brother Richard runs the three London restaurants Rabbit, The Shed and Nutbourne.

And it really couldn’t be simpler if you follow Oliver’s instructions.

Rabbit's fermented pickle recipe

“Fill a 1 litre Kilner jar with peelings from any vegetables, fruit or herbs you like. My favourite is fennel, chopped parsley and kale stalks, cauliflower leaves, linseeds and chilli. It goes perfectly with a pork chop. Just add 300ml of water and 15g of salt. Leave it covered but able to breath, with a cloth. You can use a spoonful of one you made previously to speed up the fermentation process. Then, to make it sing in your own way try adding different flavours you like, including turmeric, ginger, garlic or chilli.”

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Hands up who's getting down with fermenting this year?

Take stock of your stock

The final tip for using up the tops and tails and odds and ends of your veg and whatever else you have in the bottom of the fridge, like old bones from a Sunday roast perhaps, involves stock. Now you may think you know everything there is to be known about this food waste fall back. Think again, or take stock, as it were. Former Scottish Chef of the Year, Neil Forbes at Cafe St Honoré, sees his national stereotype as a badge of honour.

“Don't be afraid to be frugal, tight, thrifty, I’m a Scot,” says Neil. “I’m good at it and a business owner, all I’m doing is saving money and saving the planet."

"Take a stock pot, add your veg and bones and herbs etc… strain the stock off, but don’t throw the bones away. Make a second stock by filling the pot back up again with fresh water and bring to a simmer and proceed as before, you will have a weaker but still very tasty flavouring for braising and making sauces. More bang for your buck.”

If you’d like to try your hand at more recipes that are designed to waste no food, check out the SRA’s One Planet Plate site and use the Waste No Food filter when searching. You can search for restaurants serving a One Planet Plate on the same site.

To find out more on the Sustainable Restaurant Association click here.

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