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Let's get wasted: British chefs talk food waste

Eating & Drinking
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Georgina Wilson-Powell

8 September 2017

From how they cook to what they don’t throw away, these three chefs are working to reduce food waste. We talk to them about how to change our kitchen habits and to get some tips on being less wasteful.

Tom Hunt, author of the The Natural Cook and owner of Poco in Bristol, lives by a root to fruit philosophy in the kitchen.

“Root to fruit was my reaction to the global food waste problem. For me it’s about eating the whole food but also really valuing it, so not wasting any part of it,” he explains. “Cheap food is detrimental to people’s health and it isn’t nourishing us. We need to realign what we value and buy the best possible ingredients, reconnect with nature, grow more and waste less.”

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Tom Hunt has developed his own holistic way of cooking. Discover the root to fruit philosophy

While Hunt is conscious there’s often a cost implication, by swapping to a vegetarian diet and following the root to fruit way of holistic cooking has seen his food bills go down.

“Eat the whole ingredient rather than buying overly processed food and cook from scratch - it’s a sustainable philosophy and very simple and cost neutral,” he says.

Learning to compost and getting into a routine of saving food scraps changes how you shop and cook. Don’t be afraid of your veg, he adds.

“People throw things away because they’ve simply purchased too much or there’s one green leaf that has a blemish  but its 90% fine and then it’s thrown away and it’s nuts.”

It’s estimated that each UK household throws away £470 a year in wasted food at a time when living costs and food costs are rising. Learning how to cook with more veg and using up what you’ve got not only makes the food system more efficient but it saves you money.

He sees confidence in the kitchen as a key component in the battle against food waste.

“Be confident in your cooking, embody your inner chef and don’t be afraid to experiment. Be creative to use what you’ve got. You don’t have to make a recipe every meal” he says. “I think one of the main reasons people throw food away is they don’t know what to do with it. Don’t be afraid to go as simple as you like. Buy better produce and don’t waste it, ironically you’ll spend less.

Connect with more people who love food waste - in the pebble pod

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Alice Gilsenan runs a zero waste restaurant in London that uses surplus food to create amazing vegetarian dishes

Alice Gilsenan runs zero waste restaurant Tiny Leaf in London and caters events with dishes and canapes that come from surplus food. With 7.3 million tonnes of food thrown away each year in the UK (according to WRAP), there’s plenty left to divert to zero waste restaurants as well as food charities but it’s not just about the supermarkets making a change, we can all adjust how we look at food.

What drives her nuts that people throw away?

“Brown bananas...there's so much that can be done with them yet just because there are a few blemishes on their skin they are often discarded. Bread is another one. Over 44% of bread that's produced goes into landfill.”

While becoming zero waste can seem like a pipe-dream (or nightmare) for many, Gilsenan sees it as a goal to inspire people rather than a dogmatic lifestyle. You don't need to adopt a 100% zero waste lifestyle to make a big difference she says, small changes add up.

“For the zero waste philosophy to become widely adopted it's important that it is made to feel achievable,” she explains. “Small changes if made on a volume scale can have a hugely positive impact on society. For example many bars and restaurants still serve drinks using plastic straws which inevitably end up in the oceans. By politely refusing to use a straw and explaining why you can have a real impact on waste.”

Chefs Reduce Food Waste Pebble Magazine1

Shane Jordan was spurred into zero waste action after seeing the community work of FoodCycle

Shane Jordan was inspired by FoodCycle (an organisation which takes surplus food from local supermarkets to create community meals) to become a zero waste chef. He’s written a book, Food Waste Philosophy, and has become an ambassador for WRAP's Love Food Hate Waste campaign. He also tries to cook with raw food as much as possible and eschews fancy electric gadgets.

“My most recent project is about creating delicious nutritious food from raw food,” he says. “I create meals without food processors, spiralisers, dehydrators and juicers. It’s one of the most effective ways to prepare healthy food, reduce energy and save on buying expensive electrical equipment.”

Getting more people to compost their food waste is his next big challenge,

“I believe if people were aware that their leftover food could be recycled into fertiliser to grow more food they would be more receptive towards recycling. Use a miniature food waste caddy bin and keep it in the kitchen so it’s effortless.”

“Celebrity chefs are some of the biggest culprits," he adds. "I have watched numerous cooking shows create huge lavish meals and the camera cuts away from the leftovers. If they openly showed leftover food being put in their mini caddy bin others would follow suit.”  

Want more tips for embracing zero waste in the kitchen? Try 7 ways to reduce your food waste.

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