Andre Blanchet, Corporate Executive Chef, Restaurant Associates, Compass Group Canada
1. What’s your take on all the attention food waste is getting lately?
It stems to more than just what’s being thrown in the bin inside the kitchen or out of the fridge that needs to be paid attention to. I was a big fan of how Intermache supermarket in France launched an ‘ugly fruits and vegetables’ program a few years back. A lot of people were shocked to learn that if a vegetable/fruit doesn’t meet a standard length, shape, weight or colour it gets tossed before it reaches the store. Intermarche discounted these items by 30% to ensure they were doing their part. Amazing!
2. What are your best tips to make it easy to reduce food waste in the professional kitchen?
Watch what is coming back on the plate from the dining room. You would be surprised at how you are over portioning. Sure, we want guests to think that they are getting value for their money, but how often do you hear in your own restaurant that the portions are small? Probably seldom. There’s an amazing Ethiopian restaurant in Toronto I go to called Wazema. It’s so cheap! But every time we order the platter for two, we bring home leftovers for days (great for me). But in doing so, the restaurant is throwing another $0.40 down the drain in extra packaging after the meal as well, when I would have been just as satisfied and happy if I had nothing left on my plate.
3. How about in the home kitchen?
Stop buying bulk! Go to the grocery store more frequently and buy individual items. That 10lb bag of potatoes may seem cheaper down the road, but a month later they shrink, lose half the volume and begin sprouting or becoming mouldy. An untouched 10lb bag of potatoes will quickly become an 8lb bag of potatoes if you leave it for a few weeks. Same with bananas. You aren’t breaking the law if you take that bunch of bananas on the shelf and break off what you need. You need 3 bananas? There’s 6 on the bunch? Break them off!
4. What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
Read an article on how to store your perishables. You’ll be fascinated! Brown paper bags for mushrooms, clay bowl on the cupboard for fresh garlic, wet paper towel for your herbs. Small changes that lengthen a products life, and gives you the best tasting product.
5. What is your favourite way to repurpose leftovers?
Plan every meal to have a secondary purpose. Mondays spaghetti sauce becomes Tuesday mornings Shakshuka. Tuesday evenings pizza slices becomes Wednesdays croutons for your Caesar salad (yes! Chopped up pizza slices make crazy tasty Caesar salad croutons). Also, food usually develops more flavour a day later. An old chef of mine was brilliant when he said “it shouldn’t be called ‘soup of the day’. It should be called ‘soup of yesterday’ because soup always tastes better the second day.”