It’s Wednesday and Chef Amy Reed, the general manager of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Café, is chopping cilantro. Around her are peels of salad carrots, red peppers and seasonings for Friday’s sold-out “Waste Not Dinner," a gourmet meal made from discarded foods.
“The peels are gonna go straight into the vegetable stock that we use to make to make the carrot risotto,” said Reed.
A 2014 report from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that discarded food comprises 21.6 percent of landfills. When that food decays, it produces methane gas that contributes to climate change.
To show people how delicious food scraps can be, these chefs are preparing a gourmet meal for 110 people with ingredients that would have otherwise been thrown away.
When Executive Chef Chris Cox designed the meal’s menu, he looked at the contents of his fridge at home for inspiration.
“I had a jar of olives that’s been in there for, I don’t know like six months….olive juice can make a really nice part of a vinaigrette,” said Cox. “And I had some beets that I bought that had the tops on them. Like normally you just chop the tops up and throw them away. But it makes a really good salad green. And they have a great flavor too.”
They'll also include wilted arugula to make a pesto, whipped liquid from a can of chickpeas and some stale bread and orange juice to make a meringue, and some baked sweet potato skins, seasoned with mesquite spices and paprika, for a tasty topping.
“It’s a garnish on top of a dish with chickpeas, and asparagus and red onions, and when we season it up, it will have a flavor similar bacon,” said Cox.
If some of this seems a little ambitious, Reed said that’s OK.
“We want just start the conversation, and see how many people we can pull along on the ride with us,” she said.
Registration is closed for the first Waste Not Dinner, but Reed says they're hoping to plan a "leftover-themed" dinner next.