Sustainability is a worldwide business concern, from finance to fine dining. Students interested in obtaining a culinary certificate online should pay attention to how their daily work and long-term planning can contribute to an issue that’s increasingly important for many diners. How can you lead the charge for sustainable, yet cost-effective practices as a chef? Consider this advice:
Let little go to waste
Everyone with a strong understanding of the economics of cooking, from experienced professional chefs to home cooks that make meals for large families, understands the value of not letting even scraps go to waste. While there will always be shells and stems to throw away or proteins and produce past their expiration date, many other types of food waste are due to a lack of advance planning.
There are obvious ways to use meat trimmings, leftover vegetables, herbs and even bones, with the most common being a soup. This classic offering offers plenty of opportunities, including experimentation and slightly adapting time-tested recipes to the ingredients at hand.
More broadly, an experienced chef should take pride in his or her ability to create a variety of specials using leftover ingredients. This is another chance to draw on skills developed at your culinary academy as well as borrow from long-standing family recipes and many other sources of inspiration.
Planning ahead to ensure everything is used
While restaurants always have an air of unpredictability and a busy night can quickly deplete surplus items intended for tomorrow’s soup or special, a little planning ahead can go a long way. Knowing that the Sunday turkey roast dinner leaves plenty of leftover bones and trimmings, for example, is a weekly opportunity to experiment or, at least, make long-lasting stock out of ingredients that otherwise quickly expire.
As a chef, you should have a strong understanding of what’s in your dry storage and walk-in cooler, as well as upcoming expiration dates. Gather this information and use your culinary training to plan for the days ahead. While some ingredients might run out, if you develop a handful of ideas, you can put them to use and reduce waste.
Conduct a food waste audit
A food waste audit helps your kitchen home in on areas to cut back purchasing, creating a less constrictive budget and an environmentally friendly result. A food waste audit involves tracking instances when too much food is made – such as prepping too much egg mixture for weekend brunch – and helps identify when scraps can be repurposed instead of thrown out.
The Environmental Protection Agency offered a detailed guide for conducting a food waste audit. It describes the workflow in detail as well as the many benefits of the process and strategies for reducing waste. Additional resources, like a printable log for tracking waste, are available on the EPA’s Sustainable Management of Food page.
An audit is a powerful tool to enhance sustainable practices. The biggest challenge for many chefs is finding time to conduct the audit between the many busy periods a restaurant encounters. This practice may involve arriving earlier than usual, at least at first, to establish a baseline and implement waste-tracking procedures. Parts can also be assigned to trusted staff who work during less-busy times of the day, like after the lunch rush.
Reduced food waste is a positive for many customers and helps the environment: The EPA said food accounts for 21 percent of solid waste generation in the country. It also saves money for a restaurant and helps chefs budget effectively, a critical skill for many top positions in the culinary world.