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New York chefs get creative to fight food waste

By Abigail Pope-Brooks 

Environmentally-conscious chefs, whose workplaces run the gamut from soup kitchens to Michelin star restaurants, gathered at the Brooklyn Navy Yard last week to show how creative cooking could make use of food scraps that are often tossed out.

Competitors got experimental with cheese rinds, overripe apples, vegetable stems and more as part of the Zero Waste Food Challenge, hosted by the Department of Sanitation of New York’s Foundation for New York’s Strongest.

The challenge is a new addition to the NYC Food Waste Fair, meant to emphasize the importance — and viability — of waste reduction in the hospitality industry.

New York City businesses throw away more than 650,000 tons of food waste every year, according to DSNY. This food sits in landfills, where it produces more than 3.3 billion tons yearly of methane — a potent greenhouse gas that traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere and adds to the global climate crisis.

With this in mind, a growing community of restaurants, nonprofits, manufacturers and government agencies are making strides to prevent, rescue and repurpose food waste.


As Theresa Savarese, assistant director of marketing for DSNY explained, “When we conceptualized this event, we wanted to get chefs to buy in and share their story with everyone in New York City to inspire people to rethink how they view food.”

In that spirit, “Each chef has made a pledge to implement more zero-waste practices in their kitchen.”

Some are already ahead of the game. The Lenox Hill Neighborhood House’s farm-to-institution model enables the nonprofit to serve up to 10,000 meals each week to New Yorkers without secure access to food. Then, the leftover food is diverted away from the trash and back into new meals — stale bread and bruised fruit become fruit-infused French toast and spiced apple butter compote.

A panel of expert judges declared Michael Anthony’s ricotta tart with lemon confit the evening’s winner.

Cory Tomaino’s gochujang hanger steak and vegetable stem tacos with rainbow chard stem kimchi won the popular vote, which was cast by those who paid $75 to attend the eight-course dinner event.

“Being more mindful of waste forces a creativity in the kitchen that can yield some pretty amazing dishes,” noted Julie Raskin, the foundation’s executive director.

The full breadth of participating chefs and their dishes included:

  • Garrison Price (Cafe Clover): Cashew and almond milk panna cotta with caramelized honey syrup
  • Cory Tomaino (FLIK Hospitality): Gochujang hanger steak and vegetable stem tacos with rainbow chard stem kimchi
  • Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern): Ricotta rart with lemon confit;
  • Kirstyn Brewer and Claire Sprouse (Hunky Dory): Citrus onion dip and sweet potato skin
    chips paired with punch
  • Lynn Loflin, Tim Mercado and Michael Mangieri (Lenox Hill Neighborhood House): Fruit-infused French toast and spiced apple butter compote
  • Naama Tamir (Lighthouse): Skin-and-stem vegetable poofs with herb labneh and pecorino pesto
  • Kendall Scodari (Made Nice): Cauliflower ‘bone marrow’ with beet tartare and cauliflower leaf salad;
  • Suzanne Cupps and Amy Ho (Untitled): Spring grilled cabbage with pickled burdock, king trumpet mushrooms and spring onion.

As for the general public, Savarese said, “We have tips on how to do this in your kitchen at home, because residents who should be thinking about these things too.”

The Foundation for New York’s Strongest will continue offering zero waste programming throughout the year. The effort contributes to the city’s goal of contributing zero waste to landfills by 2030.


This article first appeared in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle on May 30, 2019. Eagle photo by Jeremy Neiman. 


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