What I’ve Learned: A Year After Hanging Up My Toque And Fighting Food Waste Full Time

By Robb White, CEC CCA AAC; Executive Chef & Food Waste Prevention Catalyst  //  February 16, 2018

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Hard to believe that it has been a year since I hung up my toque and became the World’s First Food Waste Fighting Chef here at LeanPath. Over the past year, it has been a deep dive into learning all I can about the global scale of food waste. The problem is big--really big--and we need to teach, train, inspire and help all those out there on the front line every day to do their part to combat this global crisis.

It’s interesting: the more I teach, the more I learn. Most of my learning has come from talking with the chefs that utilize LeanPath to simply take control of their food waste. Throughout our discussions, there are always common themes that come to light. Here is a brief list of the top things I have learned over this past year from the chefs and cooks I have had the pleasure of working with.

Every kitchen has food waste. Every single one. It's a global issue and no one is immune to it.

No matter how efficient your kitchen is, there will always be waste. Admit it, take control of it, and do the best you can do to put processes in place to reduce it.

Track your food waste. Then take action based on the data.

It’s about processes you implement in your kitchen that make the most impact. Menu changes, repurposing, better time/temp control, transparency about food waste, and overall staff involvement will make the biggest impact.

The front line staff are the change agents.

It’s really not the executive chef nor the sous chef that are making the impact, its the line chefs, cooks, and front of house staff that are doing battle. Sure, the executive chef analyzes the data and implements new processes and procedures, but its the front line staff that have the biggest chance to make changes.

The more open and honest you are about your food waste, the more apt you are to see changes. 

Chefs should be discussing food waste and their reduction efforts each and every day. It should be the norm to have these open conversations with all in the kitchen. Tracking food waste, and putting in efforts to reduce it should be in the minds and actions of everyone in the kitchen.

Food waste prevention efforts take time and a focused commitment.

When it comes down to it, you are changing the behavior of the kitchen staff. Whether it’s improving knife skills, inspiring increased awareness about tracking and food waste, implementing new work flow processes, or just helping the staff be more keen to the impact they can make--it all takes time. Looking for a quick fix is not the solution, but a long term focused effort is.

Tracking your food waste is easy. It really is.

LeanPath’s software and hardware make it easy and fast to track waste. A typical transaction takes about 8 seconds. That is such a short time to get information that can change your operation and save you money.

Chefs shine when it comes to repurposing food.

I am still amazed at some of the creative and outright crazy things chefs do to repurpose food. From Citrus Peel Cracklings, to Carrot Peel Cinnamon Lattes - the ways chefs repurpose food is inspiring. It’s like going on Chopped everyday and figuring out the best way to reinvent an ingredient. Repurposing ingredients keeps the creative juices flowing for all cooks and chefs in the kitchen, saves money, and cuts down on waste.

Chefs and cooks take food waste prevention seriously and they all want to do their part.

Most chefs and cooks I speak with are passionate about food and what they can do to waste as little as possible. Chefs feel a social, professional and moral obligation to treat all food that comes into their kitchens with respect. Respecting the efforts of the farmers that grew the food and the animals that gave their lives--it’s all about honoring the ingredients we are so fortunate to work with and not waste any of it.

We are making a difference. One meal, one buffet, one kitchen at a time.

Being aware of the global crisis is the first step, and putting into action waste reduction efforts is the next. We are making a difference and seeing millions of pounds of food saved and kept in the food stream. The efforts the chefs are giving are seeing incredible results and we are still in the fight.

It has been a great first year with LeanPath. I love being a Food Waste Fighting Chef. I love helping and inspiring the chefs and cooks I work with on a daily basis. I still get to talk food each and every day and although my hands aren’t quite as dirty and I don’t come home smelling like salmon or garlic, I feel like I am giving back to this industry more now than I ever did. I look forward to continuing to do battle alongside chefs and cooks for years to come.


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Topics: Food Waste Musings, Food Waste Prevention Newsletter, commercial kitchen