Anthony Bourdain teamed up with Mario Batali, Dan Barber and Massimo Bottura for food waste documentary ‘Wasted’
Wasting food is costing you a lot of money.
The average American family spends $1,500 a year on food that goes in the garbage, that’s 25% of what they buy. And globally, $218 billion – or 1.3 billion tons – of food is thrown out annually while a whopping 800 million people are starving.
The “sheer horror” of those numbers is what inspired former chef Anthony Bourdain and a dozen other gourmands to speak up about ways people can buy, cook, recycle and consume food better in the documentary “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste,” out October 13.
“Before you go to the market, when you’re planning your meal, think about how much you’ll need and what you’ll do with your food the next day,” Bourdain tells Moneyish.
“I never used to know exactly how many orders of chicken I was going to serve a night at the restaurant. Always have a “Plan B,” another food you’re going to extend or turn into a second dish.”
That means cooking with a nose-to-tail mentality.
“Use everything. Cook like an Italian grandmother. Make the most of every scrap even if it’s tough or bone. If it’s chicken, turn it into stock for soup to make the most of things. It’s responsible and it’s fun,” says Bourdain.
Just about any leftover veggie — carrots, celery, onion, zucchini — lends itself to great stock with or without meat. You can puree harder vegetables about to go bad, like broccoli or squash, for a richer, creamier soup. Save leftover bones from chicken carcasses, ribs, drumsticks or any other bone-in meat you cook with to make bone broth. Store leftover meat separately and add it to a soup at the last minute rather than re-cooking to avoid it from getting too tough. Other simple next-day meals to incorporate leftover veggies into are salads, stir fries with a little soy sauce, omelets or frittatas.
When shopping for groceries, Bourdain says to consider buying essentials you need rather than buying in bulk.
“People are under different kinds of time constraints. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to shop on a daily basis. You try to shop for what you need when you can,” Bourdain notes. “Set yourself a menu for the week. Plan as far ahead as you can and allow one meal to roll into another.”
The 61-year-old frequent flyer is away for weeks at a time filming his CNN travel food show “Parts Unknown,” so not buying more than he needs is the only way to eliminate coming home to an expired fridge, he says.
SEE ALSO: This vodka is made from leftover Twinkies and stale donuts
“It’s easy for me. I’ll buy a little. I come home, I shop for myself for one meal. If I’m cooking at home, I’m really not cooking much. There’s nothing more depressing than coming home to a fridge of rotting food. It’s not really something that I let happen.”
The documentary points out that “expiration” and “sell by” dates shouldn’t dictate when to throw out your food. Use your own judgement, a simple smell test can determine whether your milk or yogurt is truly bad. Once you take an inventory on what ingredients you already have, Bourdain suggests making a list of new items you can incorporate with the old. When unpacking groceries, be sure to store them in the right places to avoid spoiling too quickly. Fruits like apples, avocados and cantaloupe should be go in the fridge immediately. Store other fruits like bananas at room temperature, and if they start to blacken, freeze them, the frozen flesh is great for baking.
Eating your leftovers doesn’t have to be dreadful or boring. Plenty of chefs and booze makers are turning dull food scraps into inventive and delicious new products. New York-based chef Dan Barber, who trumpets his farm-to-table mantra in the documentary, joined forces with fast food restaurants like Shake Shack to serve up a juice pulp cheeseburger made entirely from leftover pulp from cold-pressed juiceries, cheese trimmings, beet ketchup and a repurposed bun composed of stale rye bread. Together they sold it for $9, donating a dollar from each sale to food bank City Harvest.
In a similar food saving spirit, San Diego-based distillery Misadventure & Company produces vodka made with past due baked goods like Twinkies, crullers and French baguettes that would have otherwise been thrown out for $22 a bottle. And to combat the 44% of bread wasted each year, the documentary features the maker of British-based Toast Ale, a craft beer made entirely from bread scraps.
When he’s not cooking or ordering $6 Bun cha in Vietnam with former president Obama, Bourdain likes to splurge a little on fine dining. His latest extravagant meal was at Masa, the high-end Japanese restaurant in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City where a meal for two at the Michelin-starred sushi sanctuary can cost almost $1,200 without alcohol.
“It was very expensive, and very good. Date night,” says Bourdain, who is dating Italian actress Asia Argento.
The lavish meal is a step up for the “Kitchen Confidential” author, who got by on food scraps from kitchens he worked at in his 20s.
“Once I was working in restaurants I would scrounge and steal food. I’d live off staff meals, and whatever the chef would let me eat on the line,” he recalls.
“One of the attractions of being a broke chef back in those days was liquor and food was free and readily available. You may have not gone home with a lot of money, but you ate and drank well.”
“Wasted” also features tips from some of the world’s most influential chefs like Danny Bowien, Mario Batali and Massimo Bottura on ways to transform excess food into incredible dishes.
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