Waste Not Want Not
One of the first things you learn in culinary school is that everything that comes into the kitchen is either profit or loss. A professional chef’s overall compensation can be tied to cost savings. Therefore, their ability to increase profit is by utilizing what comes into the kitchen in the most efficient way possible can mean an increase in salary through a bonus equal to the amount saved. This efficiency is not limited to food only but also includes the equipment and staff. This eye towards profit and loss should not be applied only in commercial kitchens but in the home kitchen as well.
Let’s look at food shopping first. Buying food that is in season is not only taking advantage of food at their peak levels of taste but their cost is generally less when you buy in season. Buying food in bulk then using each item in as many different preparations as possible helps you both financially and creatively. Canning is a wonderful cost effective way to keep food on hand for use during the months when they are out of season. Also, freezing produce is another effective method. For example, in this issue of Gastronomer we will be looking at sweet peas which not only can be bought in bulk but can be blanched and frozen for later use. Having the right equipment and supplies makes the proper storage of food possible.
Equipment and supplies are as critical to the commercial kitchen as it is to the home kitchen. Not everything needs to purchased new. Repurposing items like bottles, jars and plastic containers is not only cost effective but lowers your environmental impact by reducing waste. I often reuse the glass honey jars for storing lentils and other legumes. My wine bottles for storing infused oils and vinegars. Plastic containers for rice or as prep bowls for using when cooking. I only buy new if all the items I repurposed are in use and I have a true need for a new item.This brings us to equipment. Many home chef get into the habit of buying more than they need. If you have ever working in a commercial kitchen you know that space is at a premium and time is never enough. Have the right basic equipment is better than having a lot of fancy but hardly used items cluttering the kitchen. You only need 2-3 good professional grade knives. As for myself I have a six inch chef knife, a eight inch knife and a paring knife with a flexible blade. I tend to focus on the quality of the equipment and how many ways can I use it to prepare meals. A kitchen scale, twine, strainer and parchment paper are a must.
My point in bringing the matter of waste to your attention is the reason why we at Gastronomer exist. Food is an investment that extends beyond pleasure into areas of health and finance therefore, it should be approached with the same level of care that you would apply to making any serious investment.
Bon Vivant and happy exploration fellow Gastronomer’s!