Cooking at Dan Barber’s WastED Restaurant
As I’m sure you are aware we currently waste more than a third of all food we produce. Much of this food is saveable and wasted unnecessarily – not just at every level of the food chain but in our own homes. Dan Barber is a chef from upstate New York – who owns two restaurants called Blue Hill named after his families farm. It would be fair to say Dan is at the forefront of the sustainable food movement. Recently he has made it his mission to fight food waste and created a nomadic pop up called WastED. His pop-up WastED focuses on using food that would otherwise be wasted, utilising bi-products from the food industry and making them into delicious thought provoking food.
I had the privilege of spending an evening cooking at the restaurant and contributed a dish to the menu as the guest chef. My dish was inspired by one of Dan’s iconic dishes called Rotation Risotto, which he serves in his restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns. In order to keep soil healthy and alive, farmers must grow a variety of crops in rotation that help restore nitrogen, proteins and nutrients back into the soil.
I made a rotation risotto with an English twist, porridge, made using rye and spelt from Gilchester’s Organics trial fields, topped with clover – a cover-crop grown to replace proteins in the soil, enabling the growth in rotation of more spelt and rye in an organic and regenerative farming system. Clover isn’t usually eaten but is perfectly edible and interesting to taste. The porridge was flavoured with mushrooms grown on used coffee grounds and celeriac cooked from Root to Fruit – using the roots, skin, flesh, stems and leaves which were dried into crispy chips. The porridge was decorated with sprouted rye, puffed spelt and foraged greens, including the clover from the farm. To finish the porridge I served a mushroom tea made using wild mushroom seconds from the wholesaler Mash and truffle honey, flavoured with the nubs of white truffle. You can find a home-cook version of the recipe here on the Guardian website.
Conventional food production is one of the main contributors to climate change. Food waste is unnecessarily adding to these issues. Fortunately the solution is a positive and tasty one: we have the power to reduce our individual impact on the environment and to contribute considerably towards regenerating the environment through buying local, seasonal produce grown within environmentally sound farming systems. And by reducing the food we waste at home we can also make this affordable.
Here is a visual blog of photos taken on the evening by Miles Willis.
THE NATURAL COOK
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