If any of you have been following our “Path to Sustainability” series, you’ve probably realized I’ve mainly talked about practices that require some space and freedom. I am thankful for the space that we have and I realize that not everyone can do this; however, you still can work sustainably with much less space than you think. In this post, I want to talk about some of the things we’ve been doing in our kitchen to cut down on food waste that doesn’t require a garden or an outdoor space.
Coffee was probably the instigator for our zero-waste mindset. While we were saving all our coffee grinds for compost and after a year-and-a-half of looking at that five-liter container of grinds, you start to dream about them. If you’ve never sniffed used coffee grinds, they very much still smell of coffee – maybe not the best coffee you’ve had, but it’s very obvious, you have coffee. I figured that if I could still get a good whiff of coffee in grinds, there still had to be some usable flavor somewhere. But the question was how to get at it so we could extract the most taste out of every last grind.
We first started by roasting beets in the grinds. It brought out licorice notes in the beets. But we found another way we could use them that didn’t involve any residual waste: We made them into crisps! We first dried the grinds overnight in a dehydrator and then ground them to flour-like consistency. We then added oat flour, cooked it into porridge, and then added butter and sugar. Finally, we spread it thinly onto a baking sheet and roast them in the oven to make a thin cracker/crisp. Believe it or not, they taste like dark chocolate and we serve them with our coffee service. We also have infused them into brown butter to be served with game. At this point, we had to cut back on kitchen uses, because our earthworms and compost missed their regular doses of grinds.
In addition to finding new uses for coffee grinds, we’ve found other uses for kitchen trim that would have normally have been composted or thrown out. All the stems from the various plants we use in the kitchen are salted, dried and ground for use as seasoning. Used tea leaves are put into vinegars and marinades. But probably the biggest move we’ve made in conserving resources was looking at our water waste. We started saving all the water we use for ice baths, circulator baths, water bottles from service, etc. and we found that at the end of each night, we had about 60 to 80 liters of water that would have normally all gone down the drain. Now all that water is saved. We boil the water to sterilize it, and then re-use it for our circulators, cleaning, garden plants and fish tanks in the greenhouse. We’re not only doing our part in sustainable practices, but we’re also saving a lot of money on our water bill.
For us, these little steps, like saving water and coffee grinds, prompted us to re-evaluate all the things we once tossed out. But you don’t have to work at a restaurant to do this: anyone can do it. I hope our examples can inspire you to come up with new ways to stop food waste and if any of you need some help on food waste or any of our other sustainable practices, please don’t hesitate to email us at info@amassrestaurant. We’d be happy and honored to help out.