Trashed, the zero food waste recipe blog, wins over employees of major London companies
Its ambassadors - Lexington Chef Director Rob Kirby and Group Development Chef Jon Lilley - answer our questions.
How did the Trashed program come about in the first place?
Rob Kirby As chefs, we’re both on the frontline when it comes to pushing back against waste. We've got a huge responsibility, and we can help to make a difference. We launched the Trashed program in 2018 to coincide with the Lex Chefs annual competition for Lexington chefs. The year before, we’d asked them to look at vegetarian food, because there was a real trend in that direction. This time round, we ask them to think about waste. At first, I was a bit skeptical because most chefs want to use luxury ingredients! But they proved me wrong, and got totally on board with the theme. That commitment encouraged us to put together our Trashed program, which subsequently made its way onto our menus.
If you really want to reduce waste, you have to push your creativity to the limit. That makes you learn how to use orange or carrot peelings instead of throwing them in the bin.
Jon Lilley, Chef Innovation Lexington, UK
So what’s the basic principle behind Trashed dishes?
Jon Lilley For me personally, food is really important and something I really care about. When I was running kitchens, I hated the chefs wasting any food at all. If you really want to reduce waste, you have to push your creativity to the limit. That makes you learn how to use orange or carrot peelings instead of throwing them in the bin. Take chickpea water... instead of throwing it away when we open the can, we now use it as a stabilizer to make a delicious and very creamy mayonnaise and a great meringue.
RK We were pioneers with Trashed! The basic idea is to teach our chefs how to use every part of a vegetable, for example. Instead of throwing coffee grounds away, you can use them in a chocolate brownie recipe to make a delicious chocolate/coffee brownie. The most important thing is to gain the commitment of chefs, because they’re the ones who will make sure that the end result is great to eat. That's why organizing culinary contests is so important, because it generates healthy competition and
a whole lot of enthusiasm.
How have the guests reacted to this new menu label?
RK We serve 33,000 meals every day in central London alone, and we think it’s very important that our customers realize that they have a role to play in combating food waste as well. The Trashed ethos is to create delicious dishes using cuts of meat and parts of vegetables that are usually discarded, so that’s the way we explain it to our guests.
JL A week before we introduce Trashed options in any of our outlets, we run a dedicated communication campaign. We talk to our guests about food waste, what it means, and why it’s important that we reduce the volume of waste we generate. Then we get practical and hand out samples prepared using food that normally would be wasted, like chicken skin or salmon skin. We really engage our guests in conversation about the issues involved. We offer about ten Trashed recipes in our restaurants, and there are always two or three on the day’s menu. We suggest our guests look at the menu with us, explain the labeling scheme and tell them particular dishes have been made using ingredients that are usually thrown in the bin. Telling people that zucchini peelings are great salad ingredients is also a way of telling them that they could do the same at home. We get some really amazing feedback and a real uplift in sales as well!
Innovation, the interplay of flavors and all the educational chats about food waste issues are essential. It may take twice as much work, but it's really worth it. And it works!
Rob Kirby, Chef Director, Lexington, Elior UK
What makes Trashed so successful?
RK Innovation is the key to the success of Trashed. The dishes have to be really sexy and stand up with the rest of them. They’re sophisticated. So the real challenge is in making the guests want to try them. They mustn’t get the impression that they’re eating food of lower quality, because that’s definitely not the case! So innovation, the interplay of flavors and all the educational chats about food waste issues are essential. It may take twice as much work, but it's really worth it. And it works! Guests are very receptive to the Trashed message.