Zero Waste Why 'Root To Stalk' Food Is London's Newest Trend

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17 May 2017
by: Chloe Mac Donnell

We’ve had kale, cronuts and freakshakes but the latest food trend making it’s way from NY to London is a whole lot more resourceful. We’re talking zero-waste food and drinks or ‘root-to-stalk’ as some people are calling it. Earlier this year Selfridges London teamed up with chef Dan Barber from NY’s Blue Hill restaurant to bring his food waste pop-up wastED to Oxford Street. With a daily changing menu showcasing just how clever you can be with leftovers, think canned chickpea water being turned into salad cream, dripping from jamon used as an alternative to butter while scraps of salt beef are turned into a ‘blood and bran’ burrito. Michelin-starred chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Tom Kerridge and Clare Smyth have all done stints alongside Dan making it one of London’s most in-demand restaurants to nab a booking at. Elsewhere, following their successful pop-up launch in Notting Hill, the self-described ‘Organic, vegetarian and zero-waste’ restaurant Tiny Leaf is now part of the curated restaurants at South East’s London food market Mercato Metropolitano where you’ll find queues for their Rice cake & Kimchi and Potato & Cauliflower Gobi. They follow in the footsteps of the hugely successful and first ever UK zero-waste restaurant Silo in Brighton.

So why are leftovers suddenly gone from cold to hot? According to the UK waste and recycling advisory body WRAP, UK households binned £13bn worth of food in 2015 that could have been eaten. Plus further research reveals that each year over 3 million tones of waste is disposed of in the food sector of which 0.4 million tonnes is actually avoidable. Add to the fact that recent research by Sainsbury’s found that the Instagram generation are fueling the waste problem by focusing on dishes that will garner the most likes rather than what they can reuse or manage to actually even finish eating and you’ll realize there’s a lot more to it than just a weekly fridge clear-out or ordering what you just really fancy off the menu. But it’s looking like 2017 could be the year that all changes.

Trend forecasters MINTEL, say this food trend with a focus on sustainability and eliminating food waste is growing stronger each month. We’re talking choosing not to avoiding what the industry dub ‘ugly’ fruit, think red apples that aren’t a uniform red and misshapen carrots plus using what are essentially waste products to make ingredients.

‘It’s all about being more conscious in your drinking, thinking about what you’re eating and what you’re throwing away,’ says the mixologist Rich Woods, who has created an ‘Urban Decay’ drinks menu at London’s Duck & Waffle. ‘We’re using ingredients that are either considered waste or those that society tell us are past their prime,’ explains Rich. ‘By extracting flavours from by-products we’ve created an entire new way of drinking.’ Take the ‘Breakfast Fizz,’ it contains orange vodka that has been infused with blackened toast. Sounds weird, smells distinctly like burnt toast but tastes really delicious. Then there’s the Green Banana Daiquiri featuring rum, soured milk and a liqueur Rich has created from discarded banana skins. He’s also got creative with coffee grinds, tomato vines and even pine needles.

However, you don’t have to go out to get in on the trend. Pick up a tub of ChicP, raw hummus dips made from misshapen and off-colured vegetables that would have otherwise been binned, download Olio an app that connects leftover food and local neighbours and check out Toast Ale, a craft beer company that uses surplus bread from bakeries, delis and supermarkets to create moreish beer. It seems our parents ‘Waste not, want not,’ mantra is actually so 2017.

3 Easy Ways To Get In On The Trend

Follow @foodiswasted …set up by photographer Chris King he aims to raise ‘Awareness about food waste by visually documenting the causes, the impact & the solutions.’ It’s part of his website of the same name which explores food waste through interviews, films and podcasts. Think of it as your go-to for keeping up-to-date with what’s happening.

Lower your ‘perfect’ looking fruit and vegetable standards… Up to 40% of a crop of vegetables can be disregarded because they do not meet the aesthetic requirements of supermarkets. So instead sign up for a fruit and veg box that isn’t all about the aesthetic. Wonky Veg Boxes, do exactly what their name suggests, FarmDrop work directly with producers while even Asda and Morrison’s now have boxes of imperfect in-season vegetables.

Re-think your dining options… Check out the Real Junk Food Project, a global network of pay as you feel cafes, that use food destined for waste to create healthy meals. Head to the Safe The Date cafe in Hackney which also has a supermarket providing organic fruit and veg to the local community while @bubblesqueakeat is a social enterprise run by kids who make food that would otherwise go to waste available to the community again on a pay as you basis.


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