Humans are notoriously wasteful creatures. Globally, we throw out around 1.3 billion tons of food a year, which is about a third of the food we grow.
To complicate things, in places like D.C., we face the issue of having too much and too little at the same time. Food scraps pile up outside restaurants and grocery stores, yet one out of nine families in the District suffers from food insecurity -- which means that food isn’t getting into the hands of people who need it most.
On Monday, chefs leading the District’s zero waste movement are hosting an Earth Day Dinner called #NotWasted: A Culinary Arts Experience at the Culture House in South West DC (formally BlindWhino).
The event, spearheaded by chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kasoff of Equinox restaurant, Robert Wood Co-Owner/Executive Chef at EcoCaters and SuperFd, and Michelle Brown of Teaism, is aimed at bringing awareness to the issue of food waste.
“No chef wants to waste food,” said Wood, “but no chef wants to run out of food either.”
Chefs Gray and Wood will be serving up sustainable hors d'oeuvres sourced from ingredients otherwise destined for the compost bin. Gray is debuting “fishbone tacos” made from discarded portions of fish heads and bones. Chef Wood will be serving an Indian inspired snack called “ragda pattice,” a fried potato cake made from ground potato skins accompanied by a curry sauce made from tomato tops, basil stems and the saved over water from chickpeas -- usually drained off and tossed when making hummus.
The chefs, in partnership with the DC Food Recovery Working Group, have created a culinary coalition focused on eradicating food waste. “When we show people what we can do with foods that you would otherwise throw in the trash,“ said Kasoff, “you start to change minds.”
The theme of upcycling will also be made visual. Local artists Malachi Broadnax and Shelley Smith will be auctioning artwork made from salvaged materials, revealing the inert beauty in the waste of others. The event is the second in the #NotWasted series and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Capital Area Food Bank.
Despite the enormous challenge that food waste poses, Kassoff and Wood remain optimistic about its myriad solutions. Equinox, which is celebrating its 20 year anniversary next month, is committed to becoming D.C.’s first zero-waste restaurant.
“We can raise awareness, we can increase momentum, and we can leverage our strength across the hospitality industry,” said Wood. “Even if it’s small, we can make changes and chip away at the problem.”
What better way to spend Earth Day than to toast to the health of the planet with a “trash cocktail” and a taco made from fish bones?
Tickets are available here.
#NotWasted Culinary Arts Experience
CULTUREHOUSE DC (formerly Blind Whino)
700 Delaware Avenue Southwest
Washington, DC 20024