They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. In ex-Aria Chef Simon Sandall’s Sydney restaurant, it’s about mandarins, candied, preserved or blitzed, and repurposing pork or roast chicken into jaffles or salad.
Most Chefs are on the ball when it comes to food waste, but being vigilant and creating tasty menu items with what could have been tipped into a bin, is now a growing movement for many clubs, pubs, restaurants and cafes.
In the first week of opening his small suburban diner in Sydney, Simon Sandall, the former Aria Chef, ordered too much bread. Instead of binning it though, he froze it and eventually the sourdough made its way into a treacle pudding which proved the highlight of the dessert menu for the first week of operation.
“I hate waste,” he says. “Always have.” He admits he was once a hard taskmaster, taking on Chefs who threw out hunks of cheese because they were afraid of getting their knuckles skinned on a grater, or mandolin, or going over order forms with a fine tooth comb. He recalls once emptying a rubbish bag onto the floor, asking each Chef to identify what waste was theirs. While he has since mellowed, and his current operation is on a smaller scale, life is no different for Matt Moran’s former right-hand Executive Chef.
At Boronia Kitchen, in suburban Gladesville, Sandall’s guests have been literally eating up the menu since it opened in June. On offer for breakfast, lunch and dinner is a clever and thoughtful, although not obvious, repetition of components across the line. For example, a breakfast of house smoked salmon, poached egg and sourdough toast, appears again at lunch as house smoked salmon, crème fraiche, pickled cucumbers on rye. A dinner of roast pork belly, cavalo nero, mushrooms and potato puree turns up as roast pork with a salad of cauliflower, quinoa, chickpeas and pomegranate the next day.
Sandall points out this mindset begins with the most obvious things: “We don’t have much left over of the roast chicken, but if we do, we pull off the breast meat which goes into a chicken salad, the thigh meat goes into jaffles. You can even turn the bone into stock afterwards.”
Boronia Kitchen also boasts a kitchen garden, with Sandall even snipping off broccoli that has gone to seed to use in a salad. And bread not used at breakfast or lunch is smeared with a paste that makes a delicious and popular prawn toast for the dinner entree.
“I’m not throwing anything away,” he says. “Everyone talks about seasonality, too, but you’ve got to make it last. I pulled 50kg of mandarins off my tree at home because the cockatoos were going to get them. I’ve made mandarin puddings, we’ve cooked some whole and used them in that. I’ve salted them like you would preserved lemons, I’ve candied a load. I’ll even use them in cocktails.”
In Auckland, Chef Kyle Street has become famous for his signature Ugly Carrot dish – a whole braised carrot in duck stock – at Culprit, a venue which he says is “a haven for secondary cuts and the unloved”.
Getting involved and making a few changes starts with the belief that those efforts can make a difference.