The Staff Canteen speak to the chefs behind Dan Barber's wastED London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th March 2017

There has been a non-stop buzz surrounding Dan Barber’s wastED London since it opened on the rooftop of Selfridges last month.

We’ve all seen the food images on social media, read about Dan’s reasons behind the event and been wowed by the ever changing top level chefs who have featured each night but what about the brigade who are here every night and have been since the launch? What have they taken from this experience?

The Staff Canteen went behind the scenes to speak to some of the exciting young chefs who have made sure wastED London has been a success and Ian Scaramuzza and Jonny Bone who have been heading up the team.

Ian Scaramuzza, Pierre Koffmann & Jonny Bone at wasteED London

Ian Scaramuzza, Pierre Koffmann &

Jonny Bone at wasteED London

As soon as you enter the rooftop dining space at Selfridges, you are instantly bombarded with information about the wastED concept. It effectively excites you ready for the main event – the food! And at the forefront of these amazing dishes is not just Dan Barber himself.

Ian Scaramuzza (formally of Hibiscus and a Roux Scholarship winner) and Jonny Bone (Clare Smyth’s right hand man from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, who will be working with her at her first solo restaurant) have brought together a team of young and talented chefs and given them the task of successfully delivering the wastED concept to the thousands of hungry and intrigued guests.

“We’ve got a really strong team,” explained Ian. “Some chefs applied to be a part of it and others I sourced myself. There are some who are more experienced than others but they are all really enthusiastic about the project.”

Jonny added: “A lot of the guys are in senior roles in restaurants around the UK and the world so although they are young we have a lot of talent in the kitchen.”

So why did the pair want to be involved and how challenging has this role been?

Ian said: “I’m going to work at Benu in San Francisco but that takes time because of the visa, I couldn’t take another head chef job while I was waiting because I knew I was heading to America so Corey Lee from Benu put me in touch with Dan Barber.

“He needed someone in London to head up wastED and start setting it up for him so that’s where Jonny and myself came in.”

Snacks at wastED - sprouts
Snacks at wastED - sprouts

Jonny explained that being a part of the project has allowed him access to a new range of suppliers which he can use when he opens Clare Smyth’s new restaurant and he’s excited ‘to be able to utilise produce which people have forgotten or didn’t know was there’.

“Cooking is the easy part,” he explained. “The sourcing of the produce is the tough bit. We are dealing with companies who deal in volumes of tonnes, and although we are doing a lot of covers we can’t deal in tonnes. That’s the headache and that’s what we need to figure out, how we can change the infrastructure of the companies who are producing these products.”

>>> Related: Chef Dan Barber on wastED and bringing it to the UK for the first time

There are just a few weeks left for wastED London but as Ian explains so far he believes it’s been a success, he said: “It really changes the way you think. We are sourcing ingredients which would not be thrown in the bin but would not normally be used. We are bringing it in to be part of the menu because there is nothing wrong with it, it’s just that no one currently has made the effort to stop that process.”

The wastED team have been cooking for 150 at lunch and a 175 at dinner, a whole new experience for everyone including Ian and Jonny. “It’s been challenging,” explained Ian. “But the way we set up ready for it has meant it’s been faultless so far. It is high volume but we are very organised and there’s a lot of prep behind it.”

Jonny said: “I was worried people might take the wastED idea the wrong way so I’m really happy that everyone has been fully behind it and we’ve had the support of the press too. From fine-dining, three and two Michelin star chefs to those producing street food - it’s testament to the chefs we have in this country and it’s been the bridge which has pulled them all together.”

Sue Haddleton‏ LondonFoodFinds on Twitter kale trees

Kale trees from Sue Haddleton‏

LondonFoodFinds on Twitter

There have been a number of dishes heading out of the kitchen but one ingredient Ian has particularly enjoyed working with is the kale tree. The kale is picked from them to sell but the leaves at the top of the tree are left on.

Ian said: “One of the things we do with the kale trees is quickly blanch them and then we toast them in the Josper and serve them with rendered beef fat which we make into a candle. Customers at the table cut off what they want and dip it in.”

He added: “We also do a crab broth which was an interesting one for Jonny and I, when I was at Hibiscus we never bought in picked crab meat we bought fresh crabs and picked the meat ourselves. But we wanted to know what happened to all the shells and leftover meat from the pre picked supply of crab meat. I’m still not sure exactly where it goes but we wanted to tap into that and we asked if we could make a stock from them which we then use in the broth.”

“We’ve been cooking with some amazing and beautiful ingredients,” added Jonny. “So it’s been more about educating people on what brilliant products are available to them and to change their specs, not only taking carrots or lettuce leaves of a certain size.”

He continued: “Every single product we have used at this pop up we’ve paid for it. No product is a bi-product, it’s just another product and there is still a charge as it still has a value.”

Talking to Ian and Jonny it’s clear they have discovered a lot about ingredients and the waste from them and how it can be used. It was something the entire team of chefs we spoke to reiterated, they have found the whole process educational and inspiring as they explain below:

Oli Williamson
Oli Williamson

Oli Williamson

Oli, former sous chef at Midsummer House, became part of the wastED team thanks to his old head chef Mark Abbott who put him in touch with Ian Sacramuzza. After he finishes at wastED he’s also heading to Benu and he believes his time spent here has definitely changed the way he thinks about ingredients.

“At Midsummer we used foie gras, truffles - all the best of everything. We utilised waste but we wouldn’t think of a dish to capitalise on that waste which would go on the menu, it would probably be used for staff. Here it’s done on purpose, they are seeking out these ingredients which are still on an animal for example the salmon collars or cod heads which still have tonnes of meat on them.

“It’s not been as I expected, I imagined it would be a smaller group of people and less busy but it’s just been so popular.

“For me going forward it’s going to be a branding, waste products have never been something I’ve looked at in detail. Coming from a classical French background you look at it but not in the way Dan does, that’s why it’s so inspiring to work with him as he’s at the forefront. He’s in the kitchen with you, tasting everything and he cares more than anyone about it. He never stops and that’s actually really infectious.

“We’ve had a number of guest chefs and that’s probably been one of the most interesting parts of this experience, seeing what they brought to the table. I’m never going to be in a job for six weeks and work with this many Michelin-starred and famous chefs. “I think the publicity of this event will mean the concept will filter through to more chefs and something has to give – I can definitely see it snowballing in our country.”

Parbin Gurung
Parbin Gurung

Parbin Gurung

Parbin has come back to the UK after a year working at Quay restaurant in Sydney, previous to that he was at Hibiscus. Before becoming part of the team he had seen Chefs Table and heard about Dan Barber and what he does but he says the wastED experience has definitely been eye-opening.

“It’s been challenging but at the same time I’ve learnt a lot. As a chef you do waste a lot so knowing now what you can do with certain things for example broccoli stems, is great. The dishes are simple and I’ve found the whole process really educational, Dan has taught us about using these ingredients and keeping it simple but most importantly still making it taste good.

“We’ve had a lot of covers to do on a daily basis but we’ve got a lot of very talented chefs, I didn’t know any of them before and we are all in the same boat so it’s been good getting to know them.

“I think this experience will change the way I cook, it’s opened my eyes for the better and it has changed the way I look at food.”

Joe Brundle
Joe Brundle

Joe Brundle

Joe previously worked in Scotland at Timberyard and with Robin Gill at The Dairy in Clapham. He has eaten at both Blue Hill and Stone Barns in Manhatten and he was captivated by Dan Barber’s ideas and philosophy.

“I had an idea of what I thought working at wastED would be like but I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anyone quite like Dan. He’s incredibly engaging, forever thinking and changing his approach which I think is really cool.

“Nothing we’ve served has been compromised in terms of flavour which has really surprised me. Using secondary or damaged ingredients you’d think would change the flavour but what we’ve been doing has actually really enhanced it – it’s just been an amazing experience.

“I like to think as a chef I will take a lot from this, Dan is leading the charge and I don’t think anyone could do what he is doing again but at the same time you can take bits and pieces from him and continue his approach.

“Everything has surprised me, I thought using the left over barista milk was an ingenious idea and its things like this I’d like to see integrated into kitchens more.”

By Cara Houchen

@canteencara

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th March 2017

The Staff Canteen speak to the chefs behind Dan Barber's wastED London