Suddenly, food waste is a hot topic in Canada. And it should be: According to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, the average Canadian family wastes 140 kilograms of food a year, at a cost of $1,100.
While the food industry is a big part of the problem, the restaurant sector actually produces less waste than households. It’s not hard to see why: In the hospitality business, wasted food is wasted income. By necessity, chefs know how to cut down on waste. And so, a handful of these savvy chefs offer their favourite restaurant-inspired tips for eliminating waste that you can use at home.
Christine Cushing, resident chef on CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show
Shop your fridge first. Think like you’re running a restaurant and do an inventory. A full inventory, not "Oh, I think I have a couple of lemons and some cheese.” Go into those drawers, pull things out, put them on the counter, work out what you have and what you can use. Make that your jumping off point instead of, “I want to make this recipe because I saw it on Instagram or in a cookbook.”
Andrea Carlson, head chef at Burdock and Co., Vancouver
Shop daily at your local market or corner store. Having too many items in your fridge means you lose track of what’s there, and end up with sad vegetables relegated to the back of the crisper. Doing small grocery runs each day lets you take advantage of the freshest produce – it’s more inspiring. I’m always the weirdo standing in the produce section for a little too long, waiting for a meal to come together in my head. But it’s still quicker than a big weekly shop, and less time shopping means more time cooking.
Joshna Maharaj, chef and activist
One of my favourite things to do is make what I like to call a garbage goddess chutney. I gather bunches of herbs, bits of vegetables, garlic and any other stuff in the fridge that’s nearing the end of its life. I pulse these up in a food processor with some olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar, and maybe some anchovies too. I’m left with a perfect dip, spread or marinade that’s full of great flavour.
Paul Moran, winner of Top Chef Canada and head chef at Tofino Resort and Marina
Most Canadians throw away roots, peels, herb stalks and bones, but I save them in the freezer. I’ll often have a few different bins going: one with vegetable trims, one with fish, one with meat. When the time is right and a bin is full, I make a delicious stock. Nothing else is required, apart from water.
Eden Grinshpan, host of Top Chef Canada and chef
Learn how to use ingredients that are on their last legs. People throw out bruised fruits and veggies without thinking about what they can do with them. Instead of throwing away sad apples, make a sauce: you can eat it as is or bake with it. The same rule goes with strawberries, blueberries, pears, apricots, peaches – all of these fruits can be turned into jams. Also, you don’t need to peel your carrots and beets before using them – it’s unnecessary waste.
Daniel Hadida, co-head chef, the Restaurant at Pearl Morissette
Experiment with different preservation methods to utilize all parts and flavours of ingredients. Dehydrate, freeze, pickle. We juice leeks that aren’t so nice, add 2-per-cent salt to that juice and then ferment nicer leeks in it, green part and all. Or put herbs into oil before they go off. Just blend them, then strain it through cheese cloth. You remove the bitterness and get a more aromatic quality. We do that with nasturtium and use the oil in mayonnaise; it gives it this brilliant green colour.
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