May 17, 2019

Chefs Set to Stop Food Waste


Chefs and the food industry at large are behind some of the best ways to fight the war on food waste. It starts in the kitchen and extends into communities.

Chefs are trained from their earliest days in the classroom and kitchen that food waste is a no-no.

Firstly, all food is paid for so what lands up in the bin is the same as throwing money away. Secondly, wet food and scraps are health hazards in the refuse area. Lastly, and most importantly, chefs, restaurateurs and diners are increasingly asking themselves what is being done with fit-for- consumption food that would normally have gone to waste.

Food waste was one of the hot topics at the Worldchefs Congress and Exhibition in Malaysia in July 2018. Many of SA Chefs members who attended the event came back with an added impetus to drive down food waste in their establishments and ensure any excess prepared foods are donated to worthy causes.

Recipe for disaster

Worldchefs shared the following alarming insights in its World Food Programme presentation:

  1. In 2018, three million children would die from hunger-related causes.
  2. The world produces enough food to feed nine billion people each year, and currently, the world population stands at 7.4 billion – yet so many people go hungry. This is because one-third of the food we produce is lost or wasted.
  3. “Zero Hunger” has never been achieved in the history of mankind but is achievable.
  4. Chefs can make a difference. They control the kitchens, suppliers and customers that come through the doors.
  5. Contributing to food waste is the unrealistic benchmarks of what food should look like posted to social media.

Join the #recipefordisaster movement by grabbing near-expired ingredients from your fridge, prepare a dish and share it on your social media with #recipefordisaster.

Demonstrating the concept of “one ingredient, zero waste”, lunch packs at the Congress were prepared by the Electrolux Professional team, which created a wholesome and tasty meal out of the humble and ubiquitous carrot. On the menu: Carrot Focaccia, Thai Carrot Soup and Chocolate Carrot Muffin.

Good, Clean, Fair Food

During Info Chef Africa 2018 in Johannesburg, butcher and owner of Braeside Meat Market and Slow Food SA counsellor, Caroline McCann, shared the thinking behind the Slow Food movement globally and in South Africa. Their philosophy:

“We aim to create awareness about the need to transform our food system so that we can achieve Good, Clean and Fair Food for all in South Africa.”

Caroline discussed the driving principles of Slow Food to the young chefs on the verge of entering the industry.

In brief:

  • Celebrating local food traditions, ingredients and recipes (#eatsouthafrica);
  • Encouraging local food biodiversity;
  • Supporting small local growers, producers, distributors and processors;
  • Ensuring access to affordable, nutritious food to all; and
  • Sharing ideas.

Slow Food is no longer a paid membership based organisation so everyone who is passionate about food is encouraged to join.

World Disco Soup Day, to be held this year on 27th April is a Slow Food initiative that is all about eliminating food waste. Groups of young people get together around the world to prepare soup using whatever ingredients are to hand. It demonstrates how 20 tonnes of what would have ended up as food waste is turned into a nutritious and delicious meal and served in a fun, festive environment.

Activists include chefs, volunteers, farmers, producers and visitors who join forces to collect leftover food and cook together. More than 40 000 meals were made out of the food that would otherwise have been thrown away.

It stimulates ideas in all involved on how important it is to turn surplus into sustenance. Each of the 50 countries across six major regions of the world had its own unique take on the Disco Soup idea, some involving government or holding food waste classes and others showcasing fine-dining cuisine.

Last year, in Cape Town, they focussed on using indigenous ingredients and in Soweto, the soup was served with beer, with a gogo teaching people the tricks of making traditional sorghum beer.

Aim For Sustainability

Food waste fits into broader discussions on sustainability and emphasising the importance of this, the Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award was introduced in 2016 to increase awareness about economically and environmentally sustainable practices in the local food industry and to recognise restaurants that are making good strides in this regard.

The aim is to celebrate restaurants that are committed to responsible sourcing, reducing their negative impact on the environment, and fair labour. The list of qualifying criteria allows restaurants well on their way to sustainability to enter and those beginning the journey to take inspiration.

Eat Out editor, Linda Scarborough says,

“We’re looking for an awareness of not just the environment and higher animal welfare standards in farming, but of human health and social justice, too.”

It reflects the growing number of restaurant owners who connect with their farmers, ask for proof of claims from suppliers, take steps to improve their own methods and menus, and in so doing educate customers.

Last year’s winner was The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal.

Entries to this year’s award close on 31 August 2019.

Food For Thought

A great way to get involved is to get involved in a food waste distribution system, such as FoodForwardSA. This organisation feeds millions of hungry people in South Africa by recovering edible surplus food from wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers and redistributing it to registered non- profit organisations across the country.

The organisation depends on public support to help cover the costs of distributing the food it collects. By adding special stickers to your menu, you can encourage your patrons to add a little extra to their bill, or purchase an entire meal, to benefit those in need.

This article first appeared in Issue 9 of SA Chef Magazine