Venturing beyond a mostly faddish fervour for nose-to-tail dining, today’s hottest chefs prove why zero-waste cooking is positively sexy
In an industry notorious for food wastage, calls for zero waste and a renewed zeal for sustainable practices have inspired a new generation of the island’s most talented and invested culinary stars to get creative. Besides composting unused vegetable trimmings, independent restaurants like Morsels at Dempsey continuously work to reduce waste and carbon footprint by sourcing locally and growing what little they can. “We grow some of the herbs and micro greens we use; after we trim them, I try to continue growing them and so far, we’ve been successful with rock chives and red vein sorrel,” shares chef-owner Petrina Loh, who champions zero waste and sustainability after having lived in San Francisco for seven years. “I’ve even replanted kangkong and Chinese celery.” For use as edible garnishes or to add texture to a dish, Loh also makes crisps with fish skins—which she lightly salts then dehydrates at 65 degrees C—and leftover tomatoes. The latter is tomato scrap that has been passed through a chinois to make gazpacho. She mixes it with tapioca flour (a ratio of 4:1) and dries it.
Another way to get the most out of a prized vegetable can be found in the kitchen of Sicilian restaurant Gattopardo, where chef-owner Lino Sauro pairs shavings of seasonal white asparagus with tagliatelle, which he explains resembles the said pasta, in a simple dish seasoned with garlic.
While there are still fine dining establishments that insist on only selected cuts like chicken wings to make a more flavourful stock, there are others who turn to shells of pricey crustaceans or cooked bones for added umami and deeper flavours. Chef Sauro, for example, uses the heads of the Sicilian red prawns to make a carbonara cream sauce by combining them with olive oil, butter and onion. “Red prawns are great to work with as they’re a very versatile ingredient and don’t have an overly fishy taste,” he adds.
Even poultry as small as a pigeon from Brittany has much to give. Bones are used to make an accompanying sauce, while the heart and liver goes into the making of a parfait. Suffice it to say, chefs like Rishi Naleendra of Michelin-starred Cheek By Jowl make no bones about being more intuitive in finding new ways to make the most of an ingredient. It has led him to a new way of using the bones of the mackerel—not to flavour a stock but as a crust for a dish of cured mackerel fillet. He cures the bones of the fish, then roast them to make a crumble that is used to coat the fish.
Call it ingenious, we think it’s simply gorgeous.