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National Restaurant Association - Sustainability was center stage at NRA Show

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Sustainability was center stage at NRA Show

Sustainability was everywhere at NRA Show 2017. On the menu: entrees made of food waste, local sourcing, composting and food donation. Here’s a sampling.

Food waste as a main dish

Executive chef Jehangir Mehta of Graffiti Earth restaurant (pictured) offered insight on how to use food waste to create food for your restaurant.

Mehta said he uses challenged vegetables, also known as imperfect produce, in many of his dishes. Because they’re cheaper to buy, he’s cut his costs by 50 percent and has developed relationships with growers who know he’ll take the unwanted product.

He also takes used coffee grounds from a local purveyor and cold steams them with milk to make homemade coffee ice cream practically for free, he said. “Innovation isn’t just about technology. It’s as basic as changing your food and mindset.”

Serve sustainable seafood

At a pop-up education session, our sustainability expert Jeff Clark told the audience that offering underused, certifiably caught fish while serving less tuna, salmon, cod and bass will preserve our seafood supply.

One suggested species is Chilipepper Rockfish. Available on the Pacific Coast, it’s easily sourced by fishermen, he said. “Know what you want to purchase and what you want to ask your suppliers. It’s all about communication.”

Cook like Grandma did

Clark (pictured) also said you can minimize your food waste by cooking in the same way past generations did. His advice: Use things in multiple ways.

If you buy chicken breasts, you can take the leftover bones and make stock. Or, if you’ve got avocados that are starting to go bad, bake them into a chocolate mousse. No one will taste the avocados and you’ll be using up the resources in new and creative ways.

Don’t be afraid to donate

Laura Abshire, our director of sustainability (pictured), told showgoers that up to 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes to landfill every day. With one in six people in America going to bed hungry every night, that’s one good reason to donate leftover food. It’s also great for the community, helps the environment and benefits your bottom line.

Food waste laws are also emerging around the country, primarily focusing on keeping food waste out of landfills. Restaurants are often reluctant to donate food because of a perceived fear of liability. But the Good Samaritan Act passed by Congress in 1996 protects against that. “You can’t be sued as long as the food was thought to be wholesome and donated in good faith,” Abshire said.

Be smart about your marketing

Clark and Abshire said to be successful at sustainability, you must know what works best for you and your customers. That is what should influence your sustainability decisions. Once you’ve decided on the right course of action, promote it properly.

“It’s all about sales and marketing,” Clark said, “how you promote it, write it on your menu and train your servers to talk about it.” Abshire added, “Sell the experience and captivate your customer.”








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