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How One Chef Is Fighting Food Waste In The Restaurant World

Food waste is a big topic of late, with various groups organizing to embrace ugly food or turn what is thrown out into something viable. These conversations often revolve around personal food waste, but now the discussion is starting to turn towards one of the populations most involved: the food industry.

In a recent blog post for the James Beard Foundation (JBF), Dana Gunders, a senior scientist for food and agriculture programs at the Natural Resource Defense Counsel (NRDC), speaks about a new pilot program in Nashville, TN, being run jointly between JBF and NRDC. The Food Saver Challenge aims to reduce restaurant waste across the city– whether that’s sourcing from more conscious suppliers to finding a more responsible place to send leftovers. In conversation with Maggie Borden, Gunders observes:

“Chefs have an interesting relationship with food waste, because it’s built into their basic training. On the one hand, it’s part of the general ethos of running a kitchen to do your best to have the least amount of waste possible. But on the other hand, there are the realities of the industry, like when there are tradeoffs in terms of quality, the amount of fresh product they’re serving, portion sizes, and the inevitability of waste that happens from the front of house, which can all add up to a significant amount of waste.

The James Beard Foundation was a fantastic organization to partner with. We both bring really different skills to the table and that worked out really well. I think what made JBF a great partner for this initiative is the brand and the ability to really convene chefs and have them take something seriously. I guarantee most of the chefs in the room had never heard of NRDC, but they certainly knew the Foundation. And Beard is really what brought them there and gave us a venue to talk about this issue. I think we were able to just be our wonky selves and the team from JBF was able to translate it to a constituency we thought was important to engage: chefs.”

Read the rest of the interview on the James Beard Foundation blog.

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