The Delectable Approaches to Food Wastage
Just because it looks bad doesn’t mean it isn’t good.
Given how world hunger is becoming an increasingly salient issue as our world’s population continues to grow, it seems unthinkable that we wouldn’t count our blessings and use every item of food to its fullest potential. But sadly, that’s the reality of the situation. Food wastage has grown in Singapore by 20% over the last 10 years, with 744 million kilograms of food being generated in 2019. Apart from the social issues regarding wastage, there is an environmental concern as well. Unwanted food, when thrown into landfills with the rest of our garbage, decomposes and produces greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, exacerbating global warming. Additionally, they pollute the environment and attract pests which could spread diseases. Thankfully, necessity is the mother of all invention. We take a look at how restaurants are getting creative, maximising food usage with flavourful dishes.
Founded by Lisa Tang and Kuah Chiew Shian, Kausmo’s name was derived from the word “cosmos”, conceived as a restaurant revolving around the concept of thoughtfulness. The duo are bent on educating customers on the issues of food wastage and tackling them through their six-course Carte Blanche menu. Their menu focuses on utilising less popular cuts of meat, as well as rejected fruits and vegetables. They also partnered up with local farmers to promote a farm-to-table approach and shed light on the many native herbs and vegetables that most people have never heard of, let alone cooked with.
The Atlanta restaurant run by Steven Satterfield, a James Beard Award-winner, supports local farmers and tackles food wastage through techniques best explained by the title of Satterfield’s book, Root to Leaf. The book teaches readers how they can maximise their usage of fruits and vegetables. The same concept is applied at Miller Union, where Satterfield challenges his staff nightly to use up every bit of produce in their kitchen. The results are nothing short of innovative, from vinegar made from cherry pits to broths brewed from unwanted squash seeds.
At the world’s highest urban microbrewery, beer is the star of the show. Give how expensive alcohol is in Singapore, I have rarely ever seen a pint go to waste. The process of brewing does however, produce a huge amount of spent grain. In breweries abroad it has become a common practice to repurpose it as animal feed for local farms. Given the distinct lack of locally farmed livestock however, LeVeL33’s executive chef ArChan Chan has had to get creative to reduce wastage. Spent grain is used in several ways, such as turning it into flour to make flatbread or mixing it with coffee powder, vinegar and spices to create a dry rub with which they bake their heirloom carrots.
Giles Edwards’ Cape Town establishment is all about nose-to-tail dining. The approach to food here is all about reducing wastage and respecting the animal which gave its life to be put on our plates. Edwards is a genius when it comes to utilising the off-cuts of an animal, with La Tête’s menu featuring a wide variety of sweetbreads from ox hearts to pig kidneys. Presentation with these unconventional ingredients is key and Edwards masterfully arranges them into some beautifully delectable treats.
The good folks at CURE, a restaurant along Keong Saik Road are yet another establishment to fly the root-to-stem flag high. Chef Andrew Walsh’s no-waste approach celebrates the humble vegetable and pushes him creatively to use all its components. A great example can be seen in the seasonal White Asparagus, Burrata, Caviar dish which uses the shaved skin of asparagus to create asparagus milk foam. Walsh also turns leftover ingredients into flavoursome meals for his staff which keeps morale in the restaurant high and ensures that nothing goes to waste.
Misadventure & Co.
Technically this isn’t a restaurant, but the concept was too interesting not to include here. The brainchild of bartender, Whit Rigail, and Agricultural Economist, Samuel Chereskin, Misadventure & Co. is the first distillery to produce a carbon negative vodka from unwanted food. The distillery practices what they call “hedonistic sustainability” and uses all manner of excess baked goods to create a smooth tasting craft vodka. Apart from creating their sustainable vodka, the distillery also championed social responsibility by producing hand sanitisers during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and even donated a portion of its sales to help fund COVID-19 research.
Bincho At Hua Bee
A modern take on the traditional yakitori-yas of Osaka, Japan, Bincho At Hua Bee serves a wide variety of seasonal vegetables, seafood and meats, artfully cooked over a charcoal fire. Helmed by executive chef Asai Masahi, it also practices the nose-to-tail cooking that is so common in Japan, serving some more interesting cuts that make sustainable dining a delight. Some of these include chicken heart, cartilage and tail, and for the most adventurous, the cock’s comb, which is the large piece of flesh that adorns a rooster’s crown.