How to Avoid Food Waste, According to a Chef
Food waste is making headlines again, thanks in no small part to Anthony Bourdain. After lashing out against Hillary Clinton for her response to the Harvey Weinstein allegations, the famously outspoken chef is using his platform to another end: changing the way people buy and eat their food. In his new documentary Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, Bourdain shares some startling statistics, like how 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown out each year (that's a third of all the food grown worldwide). We recently sat down with Nick Anderer, executive chef at Marta, Maialino, and the newly-opened Martina, to discuss the issue of food waste at a screening of the film hosted by Wine n Dine and MovieGrade at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in downtown Brooklyn. Here, read some excerpts from the Q&A.
What shocked you the most about this documentary?
Unfortunately, not much of it really shocked me. If you’re an active chef and you like to read a book or two, or turn on the television and watch Netflix, these things are put in your face nowadays. What’s unfortunate is how little actually gets done about it. It was eye-opening to see some of the things that were happening in Asia that I wasn’t fully aware of, like the garbage cans [Ed note: South Korea separates food waste like recyclables and charges a fee for what goes unused]. I thought that was a really cool contraption they had to penalize people.
How have you confronted the issue of food waste in the kitchen?
We started getting heavily into composting. It’s amazing—once you make that switch, you realize how much of what you’re producing in a restaurant is compostable. Depending on the restaurant, maybe 90 to 95 percent of the waste by volume is organic material. Then you start to think about that other 5 or 10 percent that’s there and could be composted, whether it’s a straw or a napkin or even the packaging that you’re using. Or if you’re getting things from the farmer’s market, how many containers you’re sending back to them.
How can home chefs contend with the issue of food waste?
The big takeaway for me from this film was the simple message of cooking more. Everything starts with what your habits are at home. If my group of friends decided tomorrow that they’d start going out to eat less and stay in and make something, that would be a great place to start. Growing up, that’s the way that I lived—my parents cooked me food just about every single night. Going out was a special thing. As much as I want to sustain my businesses and keep people in my seats at my restaurants, I would encourage people to stay at home a couple of nights a week and cook. That would be a big cultural shift.
VIDEO: Watch Chef Nick Anderer Talk About Food Waste
This interview has been edited and condensed.