2012 report issued by the New York-based National
Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated that $165
billion worth of food is discarded in the U.S. each
year. In New York alone, more than 30% of the city’s trash is
composed of food waste, with restaurants accounting for 70%.
Restaurants and institutions are taking the business of waste
seriously. It not only impacts the environment, but also has
repercussions for public health and food costs, typically up to a
third of a restaurant’s revenue.
In April 2013, New York joined several other large U.S.
cities and municipalities, including San Francisco and Seattle,
to address the issue of waste. The Food Waste Challenge aims to
reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and the greenhouse
gases that waste produces. About 150 establishments, including
chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Mario Batali’s
restaurants, joined, pledging to cut in half the amount of food
waste sent to landfills. Waste management programs include
composting and other strategies, and donating unsaleable but
edible food to food banks rather than throwing it in the garbage
According to the NRDC study, adding to the issue of waste
is confusion over expiration labels that say “best before” or “sell
by,” which, for the most part, have little to do with actual safety
and more to do with manufacturers wanting to create an ongoing
market. Addressing this, former Trader Joe’s president Doug
Rauch is launching an expired food market, The Daily Table,
in Dorchester, Mass. It will not only mitigate food waste, but
provide a model toward solving some of the nation’s longstanding
issues of affordable nutrition.
At New York’s 1,400-room Waldorf Astoria and the Towers,
a hotel within the hotel that houses the U.S. Ambassador to the
United Nations and visiting diplomats, David Garcelon, director
of culinary, oversees food operations—three restaurants, room
service, private VIP dining and a banquet operation. The
Canadian-born Garcelon has spent most of his career in hotel
kitchens, working primarily at Fairmont properties.
“From the beginning of my career, I have been in situations
where concern for the environment is part of the culture,”
Garcelon says. “As chefs, we don’t want to waste food. We
spend a lot of time preparing it, and it is not only important
environmentally that we don’t waste, but economically and
personally. At the Waldorf, we spend more than $250,000 a year
trucking waste away, and the majority of that waste is food.”
In many ways, such a large enterprise has advantages over
smaller operations by sheer economy of scale and, of course,
larger operating budgets. But for even the most committed,
waste management remains a work in progress.
At the hotel, two ORCA Green Machines from Tulsa, Okla.-based Totally Green are located in the Peacock Alley restaurant
and banquet production area. Each machine has the potential to
treat more than a ton of garbage each day and turn solid food
waste into an environmentally safe liquid that is literally poured
down the drain. Coming soon are pulpers that will grind up
waste and dehydrate it so that it is more efficiently carted away
as compost. There will also be an interactive system that tracks
and analyzes every ounce of food headed for the trash.
That system, manufactured by LeanPath, Portland, Ore., is
becoming standard in university and institutional operations.
Before food is discarded, a worker places it on a scale and enters
the type of food and why it is being tossed. The terminal records
the date, time and weight, not only giving an ongoing report of
what is most discarded and when, but allowing institutions to see
what is being consumed and what is not. In tests on seven college
campuses served by food distributor Sodexo, Gaithersburg, Md.,
the LeanPath system cut waste 50% by dollar and weight.
cart it away
However, for a small business with a limited budget, big-city
waste management is another story. Opened just seven months
ago, New York’s Mulberry & Vine is owned by Genevieve Lynch
and Michelle Gauthier, who came to the restaurant business from
other careers. “We came up with the idea that we could have a
truly healthy lunch and have fun and eat great food,” Lynch says.
oPPoSi Te Top: left to right, Dana hauser, executive chef, alessandro vianello,
restaurant chef, and ross Johnston, chef de partie, work in the rooftop herb garden at
The Fairmont waterfront. Bottom right: Christopher Nassetta, president/chief executive
officer for hilton worldwide, left, and David Garcelon, director of culinary at the waldorf
astoria New york, check out the main kitchen composter at the hotel.
above: a rooftop garden at the hotel, which will soon have in place a system to
track and analyze food headed for the trash.