Waste not: Culinary world gets creative in reducing food waste

More than 40 percent of food waste ends up in our landfills every year, but a new movement is underway to change that by finding creative ways to repurpose leftover ingredients.

Gunnar Gíslason is an internationally known chef who doesn’t want to let any food go to waste.

“Everything is about not throwing away something that you could possibly use,” Gíslason, who made his name in Iceland and now cooks at the New York City restaurant Agern, told CBS News. 

Take, for instance, the vegetable powder Gíslason uses to roast beets for salads. It’s sourced from Baldor Specialty Foods in the Bronx, which produces it from the scraps of 20 different vegetables. 

The folks at Baldor Specialty Foods took on the challenge of repurposing and recycling produce in 2015, after realizing they were generating 150,000 pounds of vegetable scraps per week.

“Changing the culture around the way we treat food has to be part of the discussion,” said Thomas McQuillan, Baldor’s director of food service sales and sustainability. 

Baldor also sells discarded bits of produce known as “Sparcs” — that’s “scraps” spelled backward — which others can then repurpose in their own cooking.

“We’re proud to say that 100 percent of food that goes for production at Baldor never makes it to landfill. It’s either consumed by human or animal,” McQuillan said.

Food waste in landfills is behind 16 percent of the greenhouse gas methane produced in the U.S., according to the National Resources Defense Council, or NRDC.  

Approximately one in six Americans doesn’t always have a sufficient amount of food to eat, according to the NRDC. Reducing our nation’s food waste by just 15 percent would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans annually.

At the Haven’s Kitchen Cafe and Culinary School in New York, they consider reducing food waste an important part of their larger mission. 

“You’re always trying to cut cost and utilize as much as you can of a product,” culinary director David Mawhinney said. “Now I look at vegetables and fruits and what can we do differently.”

Mawhinney and his team bake a popular treat at their cafe — carrot cookies — using Baldor’s Sparcs. Here is their recipe:

REPURPOSING FOOD: A COOKIE RECIPE 

You don’t have to throw those carrot peels away! You can help eliminate food waste by using them in a recipe. The team at Haven’s Kitchen in New York offers up a recipe for carrot cookies.

YIELD: 24 COOKIES 

INGREDIENTS
1 cup butter (room temp)
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup oats
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup golden raisins
1 ¼ cups carrot - grated
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste 

Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; set aside. Combine oats, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds in another bowl; set aside. Cream butter, light brown sugar and maple syrup on speed 2 of mixer for 2-3 minutes. Scrape bowl. Add eggs and vanilla. Cream on speed 2 until very light and fluffy — it should look like the consistency of whipped cream, 8-10 minutes. Scrape bowl. Turn mixer back to speed 1 and mix in seed mixture. Add carrots and then mix some more. Add all of the flour mixture to bowl and fold over to prevent spillage. Turn mixer to speed 1 until just combined. Scoop into balls on cookie sheet and refrigerate. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, depending on your oven.