Thayer Johnson, Executive Chef of Orinda CC, and his team have come up with lots of clever ways to repurpose scraps and trimmings that often find their way into the trash.
At Orinda (Calif.) Country Club, our members expect nothing but the best. We don’t serve any product that is not fresh and at the peak of its season. We also go to great lengths to use as much of each ingredient as possible to reduce the amount of food waste we produce. My team and I have come up with lots of creative ways to use ingredients others might throw away.
Some of these ideas have been around for a long time. Others have come from chefs I respect and admire. All are useful in reducing your waste and helping to improve the overall quality of the products you offer.
Check out these eight ideas and if you have more to add to the list, let’s hear them.
- Vegetable peels and scraps. We will put them in the dehydrator overnight at a low temperature. Once they are fully dry, we put them in a spice grinder and use them for powder garnishes on our plates. Beets, carrots, kale, mushrooms, spinach, and any colorful vegetables all work well for this application. Make sure to dry them at a low temperature or they will lose their color.
- Sourdough starter. When you feed a sourdough culture you need to throw out 80 percent of it when you feed it. We have started using it in our meatballs and force meats. It ads a nice acidity to them and helps to bind the meat (This idea came from Corey Siegel, Senior Corporate Executive Chef of Electrolux Professional NA).
- Leftover wine. Ask your Head Bartender or Food and Beverage Director to save any leftover wine and make your own house vinegar. Add a bottle of apple cider vinegar “with the mother” and place it in a warm place with cheesecloth stretched over the top. Let it sit without stirring for at least 30 days. Taste and see if has the right amount of acidity. If not let it sit longer until it achieves the desired flavor. This works with red or white wine.
- Clarified butter. When you clarify butter, save the cream skimmed out of it. Add whole unsalted butter to it, cook it down and make what I like to call, “super-brown butter.” Bonus tip: Adding a tablespoon of milk powder to a pound of butter will also enhance the nutty, caramelized flavor of brown butter.
- Red bell pepper scraps. We save all our red bell pepper scraps in a sealed container in the freezer. After we have enough, we make a red bell pepper bisque. This also works well with heirloom tomatoes when they are in season.
- Chicken skin/fat. This stuff is liquid gold. We render it and reserve it whenever we can to use in a variety of applications including sous vide, cooking potatoes, and basically anywhere you use duck fat.
- Vegetable tops. Carrot and beet tops are great for oils, pistu/pesto and fluid gel garnishes. They also enhance and complement the vegetable they are paired with. For example, we do roasted beets with beet topped pistu and roasted carrots with a carrot top fluid gel.
- Pickling and fermenting. Preserving excess vegetables is nothing new, but I have found fermenting some items yields an incredible result. I purchased several large fermenting boxes. Generally speaking, you add a little salt, water and sometimes whey. Then let it sit. The final result is an amazing, tangy product with much more umami than you’d get from standard pickling.
Food waste is a massive issue in our industry. Every little bit helps.