wastED London: Cooking up a food waste storm in the capital

wasteED London is currently cooking up a food waste storm on the roof of London department store, Selfridges.

Chef Dan Barber, of New York’s Blue Hill restaurants, has teamed up with Selfridges to bring food waste pop-up, wastED, to diners.

Building on the UK’s vibrant food waste movement, wastED London has joined forces with local farmers, fishermen, suppliers and retailers to reimagine by-products at every link in the food chain.

Working with guest chefs, from across the European food scene, the London pop-up, wastED London, which runs at Selfridges’ Oxford Street store until 2 April, features waste-based dishes. Guest chefs that have made appearances at wastED London, since it opened its doors to diners on 24 February, include Raymond Blanc, the chef behind The Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Other chefs known for championing the UK’s sustainable, ethical and zero waste movement are expected to make an appearance at wastED London during its run. They include the self-prophesed “eco chef, food waste activist, and big eater”, Tom Hunt.

Working in line with the same ethics as Dan Barber and his wastED movement, Tom Hunt founded Forgotten Feast, a roaming restaurant that uses only unwanted produce, and works closely with campaigning groups such as Fareshare and Foodcycle. His restaurant Poco, with branches in east London and Bristol, serves small plates inspired by Tom’s “root-to-fruit” philosophy.

wastED was first conceived of in 2015, when Blue Hill restaurant in Greenwich Village became a wastED pop-up devoted to the theme of food waste and re-use. During the three-week time period that the pop-up ran for, 10,000 wastED dishes were served up using 600lbs of “ugly” vegetables, 30 gallons of beef fallow and 900lbs of waste-fed pigs, among other waste ingredients.

wastED London are currently taking bookings for lunch or afternoon tea via Selfridges’ website. Dinners are currently fully booked, but there is a waiting list in the event of bookings changing.

Menus change daily but as an example the wastED London team took on the traditional British dish of Welsh Rarebit using cheese with “cosmetic imperfections” that condemned them waste, and transformed the rejected cheese into a sauce served atop “stale ale bread”.

The menus are creative, based not on a concept of what wild and fascinating recipe can the chef concoct but rather on what’s being wasted and what they can create with that.

Dan Barber said: “The creative process starts with the supplier. It doesn’t start with an idea in my head. It’s a very different way of thinking about food and about creating a new menu. It starts with what is in the waste can.”

Dan Barber is among a generation of chefs that is changing the way people consume food and what they consume, in favour of a more conscious approach to food that includes wasting nothing, eating seasonally, and working in harmony with our environment.

Waste is a key issue for restaurants internationally. According to WRAP, a total of 3,415,000 tonnes of waste is disposed of in the food sector in the UK every year, of which 41% is food waste.

In the US, a study conducted by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance in 2014, found that 84.3% of unused food in restaurants ends up being disposed of, while 14.3% is recycled and only 1.4% donated.

Globally, about 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted, and around 40% of that comes from restaurants.

Dan Barber is one such chef who describes food waste as a “very serious issue”. At Blue Hill, they cook many dishes using food that would have otherwise been wasted. Additional leftovers are fed to livestock raised on Blue Hill’s farm.

His wastED project, the capitalisation on the name signifying “education”, is all part of the chef’s purpose to educate people about food and to manifest a conscious approach to food consumption.

All images: © wasteED London and Blue Hill

wastED London pop-up runs from now until 2 April. For reservations, visit Selfridges website

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer specialising in sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

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