Vegetable and fruits scraps are sometimes more nutritious than the edible parts. This is old news, but the question is: how do you actually make a dish out of them? Mumbai-based Arina Suchde, a health-focused chef, mixologist and consultant, who is passionate about sustainable cooking, has the answer. “In our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, food was cooked from every edible part, very little went into the bin. Today, wastage occurs from the farm itself. You will also see squashed-up vegetables on shop shelves, and then we throw away skins, rinds, and peels. I rustle up dishes from these.”
Arina isn’t alone: sustainable dining is fast being recognised as a worthy cause in the industry, globally. Earlier this year, Azurmendi in Spain won the Sustainable Restaurant Award in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018. The restaurant has a vegetable garden. Guests visit the garden to see the produce and are then led to an indoor greenhouse to select dishes. In an email interview, Chef Eneko Atxa’s team explains his philosophy: “Besides making people happy with his gastronomy, he aims to cook a better future. That is why we have created and are working on the JAKI(N) project (JAKI means food and JAKIN means knowledge in our Basque language), which covers different areas such as health, solidarity and sustainability.”
According to the restaurant’s website, they use sustainable architecture, including photovoltaic panels, rainwater recycling, geothermal energy, constructions made from recycled materials, electric vehicle charging, and many more. They also compost waste and have created the largest seed bank in the Basque country.
Closer home, Arth in Mumbai and New Krishna Bhavan in Malleshwaram, Bengaluru, have been in the news for their green practices. While the latter prides itself on zero waste, Arth practises sustainability in its cooking process. Jeet Rana, director of beverage, Kyta Hospitality, says Arth was started a year ago with the intent of making the cooking process eco-friendly. The credit for that goes to Chef Amninder Sandhu. “We have a 100% gas-free kitchen. Dishes are made on charcoal, wood and sand pit. We have a dish called deomali — a dish from Assam which involves cooking of chicken, mutton and fish inside a bamboo container on charcoal. We source ingredients locally, which eliminates transportation, and thus is eco-friendly,” he says.
While these restaurants stand out as sustainable destinations for the diner to visit, Arina has herself been taking her skill to different cities, including Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and more recently Bengaluru, where she conducted ‘Trash Talk’, for which she tied up with The Goya Journal and The Smoke Co.
At the workshop, she prepared potato skin soup, carrot skin dip, corn silk water, and blanched broccoli stalk salad. “I prepared the potato skin soup with Italian seasoning. You could add bits of fried bacon to it, or seafood chowder, or turn the soup into a dip that you can eat with crackers. The carrot skin dip could be used as a dip or a sandwich spread or as a creamy salad dressing base.” Arina adds that it depends on how much time one can spare to create dishes out of scrap, so she equips people with the tools and leaves it up to them.
Arina has been cooking since she was 10. “When I was younger, I was more enamoured by Western recipes, and I experimented with that style of cooking. But as I started getting older and when my relatives were passing away, I realised the value of our traditional recipes. My niece also loves such food, and so my sister and I rustled up traditional fare. So creating dishes from scrap came from a personal and emotional shift in my life.”
She says that orange peel is three times richer in Vitamin C than the fruit itself. “You can grate it and use it as seasoning, or it could be flavoured with oil or vinegar. You could also candy it or make a chutney out of it.” Then there is the stem of the broccoli from which you can make a salad. “At the workshop, I made an Asian-style dressing. You could also make an Italian-style salad from it, or a sambhar out of it; you could also make a chaat sort of a flavour with peanuts and onion.” Arina says she constantly reads and updates herself.
It took Gopinath Prabhu, proprietor, New Krishna Bhavan, seven years to turn operations around. “I started keeping a log book. I observed there were huge amounts of leftover rice, chutney, tea and coffee residues.”
He gave the food waste to piggeries. “Coffee and tea residues I give to a park, where there is a fertiliser dump. I give plastic covers and milk packets to rag pickers without charging them any money. I keep coconut husks in a sack and give them to people who make ropes.” His staff follow these rules to the T. “I brought a mindset change. It is all about habit creation.”