Exclusive: Chef Dan Barber on wastED and bringing it to the UK for the first time - guest chefs revealed!

The  Staff Canteen

Can food waste really be refined by chefs and enjoyed by paying diners? American chef Dan Barber believes it can and after the success of his first food waste pop-up in New York two years ago, Dan is hoping to convert British chefs, foodies and critics when wastED London delivers his team’s waste not, want not philosophy on the rooftop of Selfridges next month.

“The secret of this project is that I’m educating myself!” Laughed Dan, who appeared on the first season of the Netflix hit documentary, Chef's Table. “That’s my selfish drive here. It’s a homage to what English chefs have been doing for a long time and I want to learn from that.”

Dan is chef and co-owner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and of Blue Hill in Manhattan and it was here that the first wastED was

wastED New York queues
wastED New York queues

born in 2015. They temporarily transformed the restaurant into a pop-up with the menu and design taking root in the overlooked by-products of our food system.

Making it's debut in London next month, UK diners will also be transported completely into the wastED concept not only in terms of the menu but they will be eating from tables made of wasted artichoke thistle and the room will be lit using waste potatoes.

What Dan is doing with food is not a new ethos at all, something he happily admits, in fact he says it’s ‘part of any chefs DNA’. But the wastED pop-up itself he can take credit for. There was never an ’aha’ moment, but after ten years of researching and writing his book The Third Plate he was drawn to the history of other cultures and cuisines and how they utilised what would be considered waste today.

“What came out of the research for the book, was it didn’t matter what culture it was, they were all mimicking this idea of creating food out of necessity. It struck me as very inspiring because as we know the great cuisines of the world are stunningly delicious and they are all based on a wasted theme but nobody was calling it waste.

WastED London - chef line-up

Jason Atherton
Sat Bains
Daniel Berlin
Raymond Blanc
Andreas Caminada
Mark Dobbie & Andy Oliver
Alain Ducasse and Jean-Philippe Blondet
Andrew Fairlie
Bjorn Frantzen
Monica Galetti
Robin Gill
Brett Graham
Alex Hely-Hutchinson
Fergus Henderson
Tom Hunt
Tom Kerridge
Pierre Koffmann
Bruno Loubet
James Lowe
Isaac McHale
Doug McMaster
Matt Orlando
Christian Puglisi
Ben Reade
Simon Rogan
Gordon Ramsay and Clare Smyth
Paul Svensson
Lee Tiernan

“That seemed to me to be an opportunity to do much of the same for a contemporary restaurant which was dealing with serious issues. But doing it in the context of real delight and hedonism – not lecturing.”

Food waste is clearly a vast topic, one which Dan explains goes much deeper than ugly vegetables and bruised fruits. It raises more sensitive issues which start at the beginning of the food process with the likes of agriculture.

“Why is it that 50 percent of the wheat you grow here goes to animal feed?” Asks Dan. “I spent many months on that question but it’s hard to discover the answer to it. It’s incredibly wasteful and dwarfs anything left on the supermarket shelf that doesn’t look pretty but it’s harder to talk about. I think it’s the job of this project, chefs and restaurants to shine a light on those more sensitive issues.”

wastED juice pulp burger
wastED juice pulp cheese burger 

It’s the history in our food culture in the UK and the journey of the ingredients which is inspiring his London menu, from a burger made out of the leftover pulp from the juice bar craze (it’s vegetarian until he adds a big slab of bacon) to a dish still in the initial stages but which will be infused using the fat from the sacks which hold caviar. On paper they don’t make your mouth water but they do grab your attention, especially when he mentions the addition of the bacon to his juice pulp cheese burger is an f-you to vegetarians – a menu with an F-YOU vegetarian burger would certainly catch my eye.

“I don’t believe vegetarianism is the answer to our food waste woes, I actually think eating a bit of meat is a very efficient use of landscape,” explained Dan. “The question is, in what proportion are we eating the meat? The reason for the big slab of bacon on the juice pulp cheese burger is it reflects the proportion of meat your landscape can provide. We shouldn’t turn our backs on it, pigs can be very efficient especially when fed on pure refuse and scraps!”

The menu itself, whether it’s New York or here, Dan says it always begins with producers.

“All of the producers I have visited in England have been excited about this project, and they know where the waste is and often they would love a market to sell it.

wastED New York, pasta trimmings
wastED New York, pasta trimmings 

“I visited Formans salmon, they were incredibly efficient and the thought behind the utilisation of waste was pristine, there was nothing. All we found was a little piece by the collar of the salmon which if you multiply by the hundreds of years they’ve been established the amount of salmon they ship all over the world, it is a lot. We are going to use that as it’s such a funny example and the owner was so thrilled that we had actually found a use for it!”

He added: “We are also working with Exmoor Caviar house. There’s no waste in caviar because it’s so expensive, except, what happens to the roe sack itself? Exmoor discovered that If you squeeze the sack a tremendous amount of fat is released and it tastes and smells like caviar. So we’ve got our hands on a lot of sacks and we’ll be doing a dish with it.”

After the success of wastED New York, Dan could have chosen to take his pop-up anywhere, so why London?

“In part the project comes out of what London chefs have been doing on a historical level because of iconic dishes like bubble and squeak and kedgeree, waste products born out of being on an island and having limited resources. America does not have that so that’s one level of my excitement for being here and being with chefs who carry that torch.

“But the other side is you created the ethic of nose to tail, Fergus Henderson and others, that part is really fascinating. The idea of the grotesque and what is considered inedible. What is intolerable for the cultural norm?

WastED London Details

 Location:

Selfridges London

Rooftop Restaurant, 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB

Dates:  

February 24 – April 2, 2017

Opening hours wastED:

  • Lunch / Tuesday – Saturday / 12:00 pm until 2:30 pm
  • Dinner / Tuesday – Saturday / 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm
  • Sunday / 12:00 pm until 4:30 pm
  • wastED Tea [afternoon tea] / Tues – Fri / 3:00 pm until 5:00 pm
  • Closed Sunday Evenings and All Day Monday

 wastED ‘Not so customary’ Afternoon Tea

Tuesday – Friday, 3:00 pm until 5:00 pm

wastED London’s not-so-customary tea will begin at £32.

 wasteED Menu:

The diverse lunch and dinner a la carte menu will feature small plates to share. All dishes will be priced at £15.

Reservations:

Reservations open Sunday, 15th January

Selfridges.com/wastEDLondon 

0207 788 6210  

More information can be found at

wastEDLondon.com

“Some people may argue we are at a point with wasted food that Fergus Henderson was at with offal when people thought it was disgusting. We know now that it’s the only way to truly respect the animal and without that you are wasting a lot of delicious food and the potential to feed a lot of people, healthily.”

NYC WASTED DISH Hearts and Core_The dish was comprised of shaved vegetable cores, broken razor clams, pig ear vinaigrette, shaved dehydrated tun

NYC wastED Hearts and Core:

The dish was comprised of shaved

vegetable cores, broken

razor clams, pig ear vinaigrette, shaved

dehydrated tun

So his thirst for knowledge has clearly played some part in his drive to essentially deliver dishes made of ingredients which most people would expect to find in the bin not on a plate.

“Chefs already utilise what would otherwise head for the trash, if not for ethical or philosophical reasons but for pure economic reasons where the margins of restaurants are so tight we are often forced into that. I don’t think this is a bad thing I just don’t think we wear it on our sleeves.

“Part of the inspiration of wastED is to give credit where credit rarely is given. And when we launched it in New York we launched it with a number of chefs who came every day as visiting professors if you like and created a new dish for diners. That’s where the ED from wastED comes from, it's waste education.”

Part of this education is to learn where the products are coming from and the agricultural implications, not just the low hanging food and the ugly fruits and vegetables but the waste which actually begins in the field. WastED follows this journey all the way through and celebrates it through the artistry and craftsmanship of a chef.

He comes back to the question of our agriculture and how do we flip it on its head and make people see what they are doing?

“We are playing around with the idea of serving a grain based dish. We are trying to get our hands on some of this wheat which would otherwise go to animal feed and create a stew. On the side we’d do a side plate of meat and charge extra – so have someone sit down to a plate of food where the proportions reflected what the English landscape can actually produce if we were doing it most efficient. You have it as backward as America has it, I think America exported the idea to you! Protein takes the centre stage.

“That’s expanding the definition of waste a little bit where I feel it becomes more true to what we are up against. I‘d like to do

Dan Barber, wastED

things on the menu which visually represent that and are more in your face without pissing people off!

The feeling in the dining room of this unique pop-up is going to be ‘chaotic in the best sense of the word and energetic’. Dan says the pulse is important for this project so the tables will be close together, the music will be loud and there will be things going on constantly which will shake up formal dining.

He said: “If you come to this pop-up and you don’t want to learn a thing about food waste but you just want a night out which is kind of rollicking and fun, you can and we are ok with that! But equally if you want a night of learning, education and inspiration we’ve got that too.”

By Cara Houchen

@canteencara

*If you are interested in a stage during Dan's pop-up at Selfridges, either front of house or in the kitchen, register your interest using the contact emails below: 

Chefs interested in working with wastED London: [email protected]

Front of House interested in working with wastED London: [email protected]

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th February 2017

Exclusive: Chef Dan Barber on wastED and bringing it to the UK for the first time - guest chefs revealed!