Restaurants have notoriously high overhead and correspondingly small profit margins, meaning owners must do everything they can to eliminate unwanted inefficiency and waste. Historically, fresh produce has been one of the largest single sources of waste for restaurants. Now. many chefs are taking extra measures to ensure they get the most from their fruits and vegetables.
A recent article published by the James Beard Foundation lays out some compelling ways to reduce the amount of produce waste generated in the kitchen. This piece takes a closer look at five specific strategies detailed in the article.
Don't Scrap Wilting Produce
When faced with wilting vegetables such as carrots and celery, many chefs simply toss them into the compost pile. It's true that lackluster produce may have lost the sort of texture that could allow it to stand alone on a plate, but that doesn't mean you have to get rid of wilting produce entirely.
Wilted vegetables still contain plenty of flavor. Try throwing them into the oven for a few minutes. Such roasted vegetables make a great addition to other dishes — for instance, as part of a breakfast scramble or even an egg frittata.
Keep Your Peeler in the Drawer
When it comes to preparing fresh produce like carrots, cucumbers, and apples, many chefs reach for their peeler by default. The assumption here is that those vegetable peels detract from the appeal of the produce. However, those peelings contain a significant amount of perfectly usable food.
Vegetable peels add a pleasant variation in both flavor and texture. Moreover, they contain a wealth of nutrients, making them a healthy choice. Leaving your peels on allows you to get more out of your produce. Just be sure to give the peels a thorough scrubbing in order to get rid of any dirt on the surface.
If you really must peel your fruits and vegetables, though, consider other uses. Those scraps make excellent additions to things like soups and sauces. Potato and sweet potato peels can even be turned into tasty chips. Or send those peels to the bar for garnishes in cocktails.
Don't Bother Trimming Vegetables
On a related note, chefs can reduce waste — and save time — by leaving the roots of vegetables like carrots and spring onions intact. In fact, this tactic has long been employed by haute cuisine restaurants as a reminder of the vegetables' natural origin, giving well-plated dishes a more balanced and appealing look.
Puree Wilting Herbs and Store in the Freezer
Herbs tend to be some of the most short-lived produce items in a kitchen. Their delicate nature means they soon wilt and start to turn black. You can stave off such waste by puréeing wilting herbs with a small amount of oil. Then spoon the mixture into an ice-cube tray and freeze it. The oil will effectively preserve the herb, allowing you to make use of it later on.
Freeze Berries Individually
Berries are another tough item to keep fresh. Fortunately, frozen berries work admirably for a wide variety of dishes. However, if you simply pop an entire carton of berries into the freezer, you will likely find them frozen hard together in a single mass when the time comes to use them. This reduces the potential applications, and makes it hard to separate individual berries.
Fortunately, you can keep the berries neatly separated by first freezing them out on a sheet pan or plate, with plenty of space between each berry. Let them freeze overnight, then place the individual berries into a freezer bag. Now you can easily remove as many individual frozen berries as you need.