So what exactly is repurposing, and how can this be utilized in the commercial foodservice kitchen? A broader, more generic discussion can be found here; http://www.professionalchefsfoodnetwork.org/2021/04/28/sustainability-in-hospitality/. The means and ways are much more substantial than you might think. First let’s look at what it means generally, then more specifically to the kitchen, and finally how to get started. it’s really about being mindful.
As old as human civilization, with many contemporary scholars investigating that way that different societies re-appropriate the artifacts of older cultures in new and creative ways. More recently, repurposing has been celebrated by 21st century hobbyists and arts-and-crafts organizations such as Instructables and other Maker culture communities as a means of creatively responding to the ecological and economic crises of the 21st century. Recent scholarship has attempted to relate these activities to American left- and right-liberals.
Repurposing is the use of a tool being re-channeled into being another tool, usually for a purpose unintended by the original tool-maker. Typically, repurposing is done using items usually considered to be junk, garbage, or obsolete. A good example of this would be the Earthship style of house, that uses tires as insulating walls and bottles as glass walls. Reuse is not limited to repeated uses for the same purpose. Examples of repurposing include using tires as boat fenders and steel drums or plastic drums as feeding troughs and/or composting bins. Incinerator and power plant exhaust stack fly-ash is used extensively as an additive to concrete, providing increased strength. This type of reuse can sometimes make use of items which are no longer usable for their original purposes, for example using worn-out clothes as rags.
In the Commercial Kitchen
Here at Chanterelles and the Sugar Hill Inn we are embracing a more sustainable tourism environment, with the eventual goal of being completely green and self reliant within three years. That being said, you have to start somewhere. Like any Chef that gives a damn about our little world, there is more to what we do than cook. A Chef is a manager of things, and a leader of people. Here is an example of a Hotel in Germany that is already doing it.
Atrium Hotel Mainz, Mainz, Germany
Dedicated to environmental conservation and sustainable development, the Atrium Hotel Mainz ensures that most of their ingredients are procured from the region, as well as organic and fair trade. A Green Chef is also employed at Atrium Hotel Mainz. Green Chefs dedicate themselves to the respectful use of food, the avoidance of waste, regional purchasing, short transport routes and the use of domestic products. Additionally, the hotel owns two colonies of “Dark Bees”, which has not only enabled the hotel to use its own honey, but also contributed to species conservation. In recognition of its environmental protection efforts in energy and water consumption as well as food and waste reduction, Atrium Hotel Mainz has been duly certified by the DEHOGA Environmental Check.
You have to start somewhere, right. If you really want to make a difference, start with a recycling program. By recycling, I mean more than separating your paper, plastic, metals and food waste. Have a look at what you are throwing in the garbage, it’s the small things that count. Not every restaurant works from scratch, as we do at Chanterelles. What this means is you are likely producing a lot of recyclable material, boxes, plastics, shrink wrap, etc. These things can be repurposed in some cases, many times.
I have even used unique shaped plastics as molds for chocolate and other pastry work! Also look at the amount of food waste you are producing, is it really all garbage, or are you throwing $$$ in the bin? In my opinion, from what I have seen in my years of consulting, poorly trained chefs are throwing thousands of dollars per year into landfill. That is wrong on many levels. At the very least, the only food waste that should go in the garbage is meat trim, bones, etc. And that’s after you have extracted as much as you can for stocks and broths. This is not a new concept. This is how professional chefs have been doing it for centuries. Time to get on board ladies and gentlemen.
As of Friday, I will be taking a hiatus from blogging to focus on my soon to be released book. Only for the summer holiday, about one month. I would encourage you to join the network, at least as a free member. I will be adding a lot more content for paid subscribers, and also enriching the content and platform for my second year advanced culinary & pastry arts program. In addition within a few months we will be developing an organized Canadian Chef’s Union. This will also be part of the paid membership program. We will offer certifications, general online and conference meetings, networking and mentorship. If you are not already a member, contact me for details; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheers, and happy cooking!