The idea of Upcycled Cuisine as a trend is extremely unique. Although it may seem new to many people – you’re making snacks out of what, using beer brewing leftovers? – in fact, it’s the standard by which many chefs have operated by for many decades.
Savvy chefs are constantly looking for as many ways as possible to incorporate every single bit of their fridges, freezers and pantries into multiple recipes. Leftover chicken meat? Grind it up for your farcemeat in a pate. Overflow from the beer tap? Save it for your batter. Onion ends from your pissaladiere? Add them to your vegetable stock. The list goes on and on. Even in culinary school, I was graded on how much waste there was at the end of an exam, and would receive a better grade if I used as many items as possible across the menu and kept food out of the bin.
It’s this school of thought that keeps a successful restaurant open. However, this is not something that was openly discussed in previous years. Marketing the ingredients used in yesterday’s lunch as today’s main course wasn’t one of the selling points of a dish, and they had to be smart to not make it obvious; lest we forget the beauty that is cheeseburger soup.
Times have changed from a consumer point of view. Transparency is top of mind. Everyone wants to know what they are eating and where it came from. Menus are listing the farms where they purchase their produce and how they are benefiting our environment. Restaurant chains are pointing out areas in their supply chain where they are continuously improving and finding different ways to support our shared planet. Grocery stores are full of products that mention the use of upcycled ingredients, such as spent grain and coffee flour.
Food producers and growers are also getting much smarter about what is typically considered waste. Vegetable producers are finding ways to dehydrate and flour the produce that doesn’t make the cut for grocery store shelves. The leftover pomace from making grape juice is being turned into incredible dessert toppings.
The possibilities are endless and there are many ways you can begin to think about incorporating upcycled cuisine into your daily life at home and at the restaurant. Truly think about your food before you throw it away. Use half a bottle of flat root beer and that last bit of stock to braise a meat. Throw some overripe tomatoes into your curry sauce.
Now more than ever we need to think responsibly and ethically about our food chain. Have some fun and think about how you can use up everything in your fridge. You will be surprised at how delicious upcycled can be!