Two of the world’s greatest chefs Italian Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana and René Redzepi of Noma both raised the issue of food waste during their one hour presentations at the Dutch avant-garde cuisine festival in Zwolle on 14 and 15 September 2014.
When the Italian chef took the stage on Sunday evening in the Netherlands he called for action to reduce food waste. 1,300,000,000 tonnes of food is wasted each year (1.3 billion tonnes). “Is it possible that we can waste so much? Is this sustainable?” he asked. “I think it is not,” Bottura said to large applause.
Redzepi of Noma said on Monday that food waste was a horrific thing which needed to be tackled. “40 per cent of all the food that is produced is wasted. We have an obsession with prettiness which makes us abhor a crooked carrot or vegetable. One of the tasks we set ourselves was to work not only to find new pillars of cuisine but also to ferment our way out of food waste. Waste nothing is the catalyst to our cuisine,” the chef at the world famous Danish restaurant Noma said.
The theme of the Expo 2015 being held in Milan between 1 May and 31 October is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. But rather than focus on the issue of food waste, the emphasis seems to be rather on the quantities of food that will be available globally in the future.
Bottura said chefs in 2014 are cultured, they study and they are ethical. He had received a number of propositions to take part in different pavilions. “I had an idea but no one went with the concept”. Finally, Cardinal Scola answered his call to use the leftovers and waste of the other pavilions to feed real people in need.
Bottura’s idea is to get the top chefs in the world to set the best example by cooking the leftover food for students in the morning and homeless people in the evening. An abandoned theatre will be restored with designs by architect Renzo Piano and used for the occasion. “After we discussed the idea, I called many of chefs who are my friends and without asking any questions such as when or why, they immediately accepted and will be there cooking with the waste generated from the expo. We will do this for a whole month,” Bottura said.
He then went on to explain how Bread can be turned to Gold. “It is a dessert I created out of nothing. Stale bread is mixed with some milk, sugar is then mixed with the breadcrumbs and milk and sugar are caramelised together. Then the sugar is stretched and shaped to cover everything. To me some leftover bread, milk and sugar can replace any lobster in the world,” Bottura said.
On the same theme, Redzepi a day later said that he had created a science bunker to experiment with bacteria and fermentation techniques. “We call this the fermentation bunker.”
Food waste, he said, is horrific and is an issue which is not talked about very often. “Waste nothing is the catalyst to our cuisine at Noma.” During the presentation, he then went on to prepare six dishes that came from the idea of wasting nothing.
One dish was made with fallen fruit. They create oils from berry seeds, and a sauce from rotten barley. The broth we create is extraordinary and it has no animal protein. We are moving away from a protein rich tasting menu and moving towards vegetables. “In a way we are taking care of our guests’ health long after the bill has been paid,” he said.
Redzepi said that for one dish they used squid which can be found in abundance in Denmark but which is not a staple ingredient in Nordic cuisine. For this dish we also use the stems of the broccoli which are usually discarded, the idea being that we should also have nose to tail cooking for the vegetable i.e. using everything. With the leftover squid they distill a broth for a minimum of one year. It is like a fish sauce but the depths of flavour are extraordinary, he said.
Like Bottura, Redzepi also came up with a way to use stale bread. “When it comes to food waste, bread is one of the worst food products because there is little you can do with it. But we distilled rye bread into a liquid and then asked what we could do. Once the rye bread is fermented, it turns into a waste. The taste is rich, sweet with a liquorish tone. We mix it with cream and sugar to make a sauce and then add it to raspberries marinated with a fermented raspberry liquid.
Asked what book got him started into fermentation techniques he said that The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz is a great starting point. “Once you get this, then you need to go deeper, but you realise that this is never ending. This is more chemistry than cooking and is not taught in cooking schools”.
Noma is funding research into how to ferment produce which would otherwise be wasted.