Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Wasted: A Celebration of Sustainable Food

My last post was about Imperfect Produce, a company selling "ugly" produce to consumers to keep them from heading to the landfill.

This week's post also addresses food waste--but from a slightly different perspective: Celebrating chefs and organizations that prepare dishes and cocktails using food that would otherwise be tossed out.

Wasted: A Celebration of Sustainable Food is an event being held by Kitchens for Good on October 14 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Liberty Station. It's going to feature a competition between 30 local and national chefs and mixologists. Among them are James Beard Nominee Javier Plascencia, Bravo TV's Top Chef Katsuji Tanabe, Executive Chef Davin Waite of Wrench and Rodent, Bravo TV's Top Chef Brian Malarkey, Sugar & Scribe's Maeve Rochford--who was Food Network's Holiday Baking Champion, Elizabeth Faulkner, Danilo Tangalin, Keith Lord, and Martin San Rom├ín.

Kitchens for Good got involved in this project because it reflects core values of their mission. "We have long been inspired by creative challenge of reducing food waste, Aviva Paley, Kitchens for Good's co-founder and senior director explained. "We do this everyday in our kitchen by taking surplus and cosmetically imperfect produce and turning it into gourmet meals for hungry families. We wanted to extend that challenge to chefs and have them reimagine the possibilities of food that might otherwise go to waste. Partnering with Chef Works made this all possible with their $25,000 grant, and their incredible connections to the top chefs across the country."

Chefs, of course, are always keen to cut waste. Even if it isn't part of an environmental ethos it's critical to their profit margins. So, who better to learn from? Wasted attendees can see how chefs can repurpose day-old bread, bruised fruit, bits and pieces of leftover vegetables and meats.

And then we can vote on the winning dishes and cocktails based on these and other underutilized foods. Ideally we'll also be inspired to rethink how we address food waste in our households.

Another reason to attend Wasted is to celebrate the programs of Kitchens for Good, a local non-profit that trains men and women previously perceived as unemployable for careers in the culinary industry. These are students who had been in the foster care system, homeless, or incarcerated and who are now earning a place in San Diego's food establishment. In just two-and-a-half years Kitchens for Good has graduated 162 students and has a 90 percent post-graduation employment rate. Among the skills the students learn is food sustainability.

"Our culinary students learn about food sustainability from day one in their program. They are taught how to compost any scraps in the kitchen, how to use the whole product and avoid waste, and how to use by products to create things like stocks, sauces, and soups. Further, our students are exposed to the huge amount of food waste in San Diego, as they take thousands of pounds of surplus produce that we rescue from wholesalers and farmers markets, and turn it into thousands of nutritious and delicious meals for hungry San Diegans," Paley said.

In fact, Kitchens for Good has rescued 86,591 pounds of surplus food and turned it into 121,227 nutritious meals for the homeless, at-risk youth, and homebound seniors.

The Kitchens for Good van filled with surplus produce from partners like Specialty Produce, ProduceGood, and Senior Gleanors of San Diego County
At Wasted, Kitchens for Good culinary students will be paired with the competing chefs to help prep the dishes.

Along with the food and cocktail competition, there will be live entertainment and a silent auction. Proceeds will support Kitchens for Good.

General admission tickets are $90 and can be purchased online here. The event will be held at Luce Court and Legacy Plaza in Liberty Station at 2641 Truxton Road.

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