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Dylan Jones, who signed this article, is the owner and chef of Bo.lan in Bangkok, a Thai cuisine restaurant he runs with his wife Duangporn Songvisava. Bo.lan was listed 19 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017. Dylan is also the co-founder and co-director of the Re Food Forum which will be held in Bangkok on March 19 and 20, 2018, of which FineDiningLovers will be media-partner.
Reports state that a third of food grown or produced for human consumption is wasted, that 45% of all fruits and vegetables produced are thrown away. Hotels and large food service operations have such strict food and safety SOP’s that on average, they throw away 1kg per guest per night due to the legal implications of somebody getting sick.
As an Australian living in Asia and cooking Thai cuisine I have been forced to think about food differently. For me, the beauty of traditional cuisines, like Thai, is the creativity of the cooks who ensured everything gleaned from their environment was utilized. In Australia, before industrialization, we also didn’t waste; rather we were a thrifty and creative bunch- manipulating and inventing left overs to create something else. Our approach to food was considered, meaningful and community based.
More creativity, less waste
If you google “waste”, it is defined as: Anything unused, unproductive or not properly utilized. An act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose. A material that is not wanted: the unused remains or byproducts of something.
The United Nations tells us that the impact of food waste is not just financial, that the food we are sending to landfills contributes greatly to global warming; methane gas from food waste in landfills is 20 – 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. And currently 40% of all landfill content can be attributed to food waste.
Does that mean that food waste is about misused opportunities and lack of imagination? If almost every product coming from farms, kitchens and households can be used, upcycled or - at the very least- composted, maybe we shouldn’t be calling it waste at all.
Perhaps this is as simple as changing the language we use. Let’s stop calling it waste. Let’s call it what it is, a beautiful and nutritious opportunity to get creative in our kitchens.
Two examples to consider
Let’s look at a watermelon as an example. The part most of us want to eat is the sweet inner flesh. But what can be done with the seeds? If you have space, you can dry and re-plant. If you don’t have the space you can boil, fry, salt and grind to use as a garnish. Better yet, toast and mix with salt for a zero-waste bar snack. The pith, that white not so tasty layer between the sweet flesh and the skin can be candied. The skin itself can be macerated with a little sugar and hung in a cheese cloth for seven days to produce an amazing EMO (effective micro-organism) that has many uses from drain cleaner to liquid fertilizer. The left-over skin after the EMO can be composted to help nurture soil for more watermelons.
“What about non-food items like fryer oil?” I hear you say. With little effort and very little skill you could turn it into soap. With fryer oil soap you’ll also see a reduction of cleaning chemical- which is ultimately good for the environment- and just as good for the budget. Ahh the bottom line… now I’ve got your attention!
No more “wasted” opportunities
Another great thing about upcycle opportunities it gives chefs, as proprietors, an easy way to communicating and educating customers on the importance of food waste related issues. Because at the end of the day it’s everyone’s responsibility.
As an industry, as a community, we have a very persuasive opportunity to combine our knowledge, band together and create change. The reality is when we reduce our waste we are not only helping solve environmental issues but making our business more efficient (and a more efficient business makes more money). Opportunity and imagination.
Watch this exclusive video in which Dylan Jones and Bo Songvisava explain their ideas about Thai food trends.