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All You Can Eat

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January 21, 2009 at 10:37 AM

Please, sir! May we (re)use our patrons’ food some more?

Thanks to my friend with the lovely British accent, who forwarded an article from the UK that delves into a practice likely to get local health department officials — and others inclined to shriek “Ewwwww” — up in arms. The report, which appeared in London’s Guardian (read it here) says:

Ever wondered what happens to your left-over bread or wine after you leave a restaurant? In an interview in this month’s Restaurant Magazine, Anthony Demetre, chef and patron of Michelin-starred London restaurant Arbutus, says that uneaten bread goes to make crumbs and undrunk wine is used as a base for vinegar and sauces. A rare public admission, but one that seems to have encouraged other chefs to admit to the practice. Giancarlo Caldesi, owner of Caffe Caldesi in London, uses fat trimmings from meat to make pastry and cook potatoes. One chef, who asked not to be named, told me he slings leftover gravy from serving pots in the stock.

The above-mentioned (and decidedly common) practices come as no surprise to me. Nor do they necessarily raise my gustatorial hackles — though I suspect many of you might beg to differ. With that said, I’m still recoiling over a memory of an East Coast-restaurateur who’d regularly rummage through the trash to see whether his waitstaff had thrown away “unused” lemon wedges — and scold us for doing so. And if he’d find individual plastic cream-containers (the kind served with coffee) hiding among the trash-receptacle detritus, he’d insist we retrieve, rinse and reuse. (Fear not: I didn’t.)

So, what’s your take on the “repurposed” bread, fat, sauces, etc.? Does this suggest a satisfyingly “green” way to use leftover restaurant foodstuffs, living up to the old adage, “waste not, want not” — as many of the Guardian’s readers suggest in their comments? Or does the thought of it make you the other kind of green?

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