As the dust settles I am finally getting to reflect on the Wasteless Cardiff suppers journey so far. I planned to write a blog for each Wasteless supper we delivered in March 2018 but surprises such as the heavy snow really threw us. The Wasteless team had to work hard and seamlessly to deliver the events against all odds.
For those of you who might not have heard about Wasteless in Cardiff it is a collaborative platform which involves more than one food businesses in the delivery of a pop-up feast using food surplus, food that would have been wasted and food that is produced in a less wasteful manner. I have been running it for the last ten months with Rebecca Clark from Green City Events. It is our brainchild as Ruth Molaski recently wrote in her Western Mail article. Wasteless has taken most of my ‘food work’ time in 2018. And we both really care about it.
We held our pilot Wasteless in October 2017. And in March we got together to deliver two additional events partly supported by the Sainsbury Waste Less Save More fund. The talented Jane of Hungry City Hippy wrote a fantastic review about the early March event too.
Who is Wasteless for?
Bringing new businesses to the table to inspire and be inspired by them in taking a wasteless approach remains one of the key objectives of Wasteless suppers trials. We wanted and continue to aim to showcase our local chefs and food businesses, and how they do ‘wasteless’ food.
Wasteless also aims to bring crowds to the table educating them about the potential of food they may waste and informing them about ways to be savvier at home. The events are much more than a meal, with guests really engaging in discussions about their footprint and impact, leaving more empowered after having shared knowledge and ideas on their journey to becoming wasteless.
Our choice to go from potential food waste to fine dining is deliberate. I am very keen that we make the point that a menu you are likely to have paid two or three times the price of a Wasteless supper ticket can be actually made from ingredients that we as consumers and the retail process most commonly waste. I hope this stark antithesis between food destined for the bin turning into gourmet dishes really sticks with our guests and those who read about Wasteless.
Our choice to do Wasteless and yours to attend the events also sends an important message to food retailers, who can see that we care more about what may perish – they are willing to work with all of us and they are listening. They have people like you and me working for them who care as much about reducing food waste. This has been one of the most encouraging messages of the project. We are in it together!
To date three Wasteless suppers have taken place in the Welsh capital of Cardiff. The WasteLess suppers preserved, pickled, cooked and served around 261 kilos of the food collected in the weeks leading to the events. The food was then safely handled, stored, distributed and cooked by the participating chefs/businesses to offer five-course feasts.
There were eighteen participating food businesses with different practices and business models, who prepared and donated food, and hosted the suppers – a number that has by far exceeded our expectations. In fact, when we wrote our project plan we thought we might attract around fifty people to our table at this stage of the process. But the food collected ended up feeding 135 guests (and another twenty people who volunteered to help deliver the events).
What was served at Wasteless…
The creativity of the chefs we have worked with is humbling. Dishes such as sourdough flavoured ice cream from Cocorico Patisserie who then used the bread again to make tartelettes for the canapes serving the cheese donated by the Cheese Pantry were a massive hit. Laurian’s recipes were conceived during the heavy snowfall when bread and vegetable was in shortage, and many of our guests had already started to think about food as a precious commodity. The fact that we already had over 80 kg food collected at that time propelled us into action to ensure that Wasteless supper happened regardless of the snow. The response was amazing and most of our guests turned up on the evening – many quite hungry for vegetable and bread at the time.
Also for Wasteless supper #2, our preservation master, the beloved Eira of Inner City Pickle created a delicious aubergine, tomato and chilli relish and a banana jam which we used in our menu. The amazing Laura of Tidy Kitchen company laboriously sliced and minced different cuts of chicken and pork to make scotch eggs and terrines for our guests. Laura came on the team just ten days before the event. And she blew our guests away with her dishes’s presentation as well as the flavour. You must give her food a try and support her newly established independent business.
At Wasteless #3 Chef Jan’s (Anna Loka) recipe of mixed vegetable rostis with a butternut squash sauce and crisp fried greens (a great use for wilted greens) inspired a lot of our diners to go home and look at their vegetable draw twice before clearing it. Melissa’s (Penylan Pantry) starter balls mixing various vegetable, fish and meat into delicious bites showed people you don’t need much to create an impressive party platter. Beca Lyne Pirkis’s trio dessert using tens of kilos of bananas, mandarins and frozen berries in a sticky mandarin cake, jam doughnuts and the most delicious banana fool I have ever tasted was spectacular and gave us ideas on how to use ripened fruit.
Beca, who is one of the baker’s dozen in the 4th series of The Great British Bake Off and now cook, food writer and TV presenter, said, “The issue of food waste is something that concerns me, and helping to raise awareness around it by being part of Wasteless is one way of inspiring others to make better use of leftovers as well as drawing attention to the volume of surplus food that happens weekly in Cardiff. I’m honoured to be asked to play a small part in helping the cause.”
Phil’s (Dusty Knuckle) mushroom ketchup, pickled apples, daikon slaw and slow cooked meat was a dish that required much labour and ingenuity in using everything that was made available to him – it had so many layers of flavour and texture and nothing was wasted. And I hope that my own new-found, personal obsession with dehydration, pickles and pickling methods from around the globe gave people at our table more ideas on how to make the most of seasonal resources.
Clare Williams of Penylan Preserves who created three different relishes for Wasteless supper #3 says, “I am extremely humbled to be part of the #Wastelesssupper team. Preserving is a great way of ‘keeping food’ for longer and I couldn’t believe how good the food was that was going to be thrown out!! I am a great believer in using my senses on when food needs to be thrown NOT a best before date on the packaging!”
The Purple Poppadom team transformed frozen chicken, most of it a by-product of the Wasted suppers at Selfridges last year into a delicious curry produced to us by the fantastic Illtud of Charcutier. ‘We are great believers in the work of the Wasteless team. Chef is very excited to have contributed a Purple Poppadom Nadan Kozhi chicken curry, showing how ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away too early, can be so tasty.’
The future is bright for Wasteless food events. As well as being a finalist for the Cardiff Life Awards in the first six months of its life, it has received much attention from the public and media platforms.
The question we keep getting is, ‘When is the next Wasteless happening?’ With the encouragement and support we have received from all of you and businesses in Cardiff and across Wales wanting to be part of Wasteless, there is a lot more that we can do to spread the message by inviting people to a wasteless table, and maybe a more wasteless lifestyle.
We would like to thank all the volunteers who have worked hard to make Wasteless happen. Most notably Dai Tilbert (Punk Bikes Cardiff), Laura Sorvala (Auralab) and Dan Barnett worked tirelessly on the events through collections, deliveries, preparation and on the night.
Great thanks go to Oasis Cardiff, the refugee charity who let us use their fridges and freezers for the vast amount of food that we used for Wasteless. Any fresh or frozen food we did not use was left at Oasis for the use of their daily lunches.
The fantastic businesses which contributed to WasteLess include Penylan Pantry, a sustainable café and grocery store which implements the low-waste approach in its practices; Mezza Luna, an award winning, independent, Middle Eastern restaurant; Anna Loka, the first 100% vegan café in Cardiff; the Tidy Kitchen Company, a dynamic, fine dining catering company run by chef Laura Graham; Dusty Knuckle, the best UK pizzeria according to the Guardian, a promoter of slow food and Wasteless menus; the award winning Purple Poppadom; the Cheese Pantry; Cocorico Patisserie and deliciously creative dishes; Penylan Preserves and Inner City Pickle chutneys, relishes and jams; the talented Beca Lyne Pirkis; Oriel Jones’s fine Welsh mutton meat. Wasteless Suppers have been hosted by the Little Man Coffee company, an ethical coffee shop which is a hub of community activity; Illtud of Charcutier who has been involved in WastED at Selfridges and is a talented food businessman in Wales; Caffi Sio, the sister company of Chapter Arts in Cardiff Bay and The Old Library Milk & Sugar.
Lia Moutselou of Lia’s Kitchen and Rebecca Clark from Green City Events co-design and co-run Wasteless. Our partnership on food waste and ethical ventures is well established. Over the three years we joined forces to deliver a series of food waste projects and initiatives in Cardiff, in collaboration with Love Food Hate Waste campaigns and other local organisations and businesses. From community cook ups with food destined for the bin, to roadshows, school lunch clubs and pop up street food stalls, we have inspired, engaged and educated to encourage action and behaviour change relating to food waste.
Lia’s Kitchen is an ethical food venture inspired by sustainability, Greek cuisine and world flavours: www.liaskitchen.com. Green City is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company based in Cardiff, hosting a range of exciting and inspiring environmental and sustainability events and workshops: www.greencityevent.co.uk
Special thank to Suzie Larke Photography for covering our Wasteless #3 supper and to Dan Green Photography for covering Wasteless #1. The rest of the phots are from Green City Events and Lia’s Kitchen.
Wasteless has received some queries about why this food waste was not used for the homeless and charitable purposes. Both Lia’s Kitchen, Green City events and many of the businesses we worked give support in kind and otherwise to many projects supporting charitable causes. In fact the profits of the pilot Wasteless supported the Cystic Fibrosis Better Life Appeal at Llandough Hospital. However, using food surplus to feed the homeless is not the purpose of Wasteless. For those concerned please rest assured that there is plenty of food waste at the disposal of charities, organisations and projects to support the homeless or otherwise less fortunate – Wasteless collected from just one supermarket location in Cardiff and we are sure many retail outlets would be happy to partner with charities. We are happy to share our experience if this helps anyone wanting to set up a project. The positive experience our supermarket retailer is having with Wasteless may provide them and other retailers with reassurance which might facilitate more agreements and projects in the future. Through our previous food waste reduction work we have facilitated partnerships. But often the limited resources of charities or such projects and the hard work required for the collections has been an obstacle to their long-term sustainability. Nonetheless there are fantastic projects in Cardiff, elsewhere in Wales and all around the UK that do charitable and stellar community work successfully either through their own collections or a subscription to Fairshare and we are sure that many more will continue to flourish.