Kate Ryan: Would you eat a meal made up of food waste... but why?

Earlier this month, 50 diners at GROW HQ were served up a meal entirely made from food waste. The HQ, in County Waterford is to be the action hub in Ireland for the Chef’s Manifesto, KATE RYAN explains
Kate Ryan: Would you eat a meal made up of food waste... but why?
DON'T JUST DUMP IT:  Composting food waste creates new soil for use in growing your own food, closing the loop. Install rain water collection butts protecting ground water supply.

GROW HQ in Waterford recently hosted a pop-up dinner with a twist. Wasted Supper Clubs use waste food from customers and local restaurants and transform it into more food. It is a premise based on Zero Waste, and one that was championed by Douglas McMaster, the founder of the revered Silo restaurant in London, UK.

In his book, Silo — The Zero Waste Blueprint, A Food System For the Future, McMaster’s charts his ideological journey from the best, yet most wasteful, fine dining restaurants of the world, to his Damascene moment working in Joost Bakker’s The Greenhouse in Perth, Western Australia. The Greenhouse was a restaurant whose whole ethos was governed by a simple proposition: ‘Imagine a world without Waste.’ When McMaster established Silo, the one major difference between his and everyone else’s restaurant was: No Bin. With no bin, all waste must be viewed through the lense of a closed-loop system – Zero Waste. Carrot tops, potato peel, left over bread, coffee grinds, even the bottles that liquids came in – a secondary use is found for every item. Seasonality is core, and creativity is as important a tool as a chefs’ knife to make certain veg desirable for several months of their season.

In 2018, at EAT Stockholm Food Forum, a manifesto for change was unveiled. The Chefs’ Manifesto is a global network of chefs’ working to implement UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). SDG2 is around food sustainability and security.

There are eight Thematic Areas to the Chefs’ Manifesto covering all aspects of food consumption. The idea is to harness the collective power and influence of the world’s most renowned and celebrated chefs to drive through major change in the way restaurants source and cook food, to educate their diners, suppliers and growers to change the way our food system operates.

Kate Ryan, of www.flavour.ie
Kate Ryan, of www.flavour.ie

GROW HQ has been selected as the Irish Action Hub for the Chefs’ Manifesto, and the Wasted Supper Club was their first high profile event letting us know that they are here and ready to make positive change.

Great. But while Chefs’ can revel in the glory of their achievements, what about you and I?

During a recent conversation, a Chef said to me that the best cooking happens at home — not in our restaurants. It was a jolt, because this was exactly the premise upon which I established Flavour.ie six years ago, and a timely reminder to myself of that fact, from which I drew this conclusion: WE ARE ALL CHEFS

Whether you’re cooking prowess extends to scrambled eggs on toast, bangers and mash or a 10- course tour de force for friends, we are all chefs in our own homes. I took a closer look at the “8 Thematic Areas” of the Chefs’ Manifesto to see whether it is relatable to a normal kitchen in a normal house. Can we make a change in our kitchens that collectively will exert more influence than all chefs put together? There are rather more of us than them, after all.


1. Ingredients grown with respect for the earth and its oceans.

Incorporate more organic, wild and seasonal foods. Less reliance on mono-culture grown foods; increase use of biodiverse growing methods; wild food has additional nutrients otherwise lost from intense agricultural practices; eating with the seasons reduces food miles; we eat the right food at the right time of year.

2. Protection of biodiversity and improved animal welfare

Buy from biodiverse farms that grow and rear a variety of crops and animals.

Eating higher welfare, slower grown meat is more expensive; but eating less or a better quality will mean more nutrient dense foods and a reduction in carbon footprint.

3. Investment in livelihoods

Support what is being grown locally. Make use of Farmers’ Markets, independent shops who support local growers and utilise direct purchase initiatives such as Neighbourfood.

Buying locally keeps money in the local area creating an incentive for people to stay, live and work in the local area. Towns and villages thrive.

4. Value natural resources and reduce waste

Consider Soil, Air and Water in making your buying decisions and when cooking. Grow some of your own food.

Growing food in an organic way slows down the depletion of nutrients in the soil. Food grown using a permaculture method will add to the nutrient quotient.

Composting food waste creates new soil for use in growing your own food, closing the loop. Install rain water collection butts protecting ground water supply.

5. Celebration of local and seasonal food

Reduce your reliance on imported foods. Avocados are nice, but also profitable and under threat from organised crime gangs. Are they still as tasty now? Buy local that has been grown local. In Ireland, this means the whole island!

Celebrate foods we grow well here and reconnect with seasonality. Imagine if we looked forward to the first turnip crop the same way we do about our wild blackberries?

6. A focus on plant-based ingredients

Understand plant-based eating better so it can become a normal part of your diet. Reduce use of vegetarian, vegan and plant-based and talk about food holistically.

We increase the choice of foods we eat, how we cook and prepare them, reducing reliance on just a few, intensively produced, foods.

7. Education on food safety and healthy diets

The food we eat should be balanced before it can be considered healthy. Include a grain, a protein and plenty of vegetables in every meal to deliver a spectrum of nutrients for our bodies to be, and remain, healthy.

Food that enhances our health, not detracting from it.

8. Nutritious food that is accessible and affordable for all

It’s not just about multi-buys; what about the wonky veg, or items in the supermarket discount bins?

Grow your own, or set up a community garden to grow food that is freely available to pick.

Good food should never be the preserve of the elite, but there is also no such thing as cheap food.

Somewhere along the line, in order to produce cheap food someone is either giving or taking too much creating a deficit that is difficult to rebalance.

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