Miller Union chef Steven Satterfield shares tips to cut down on food waste

"Who wants to think about trash? Our culture doesn't want to think about trash."

Steven Satterfield, the chef and co-owner of Miller Union , stood in the dining room of his Westside restaurant. Gathered around him were 20 people — fellow chefs, farmers and other food professionals — who did, in fact, want to talk about trash.

Satterfield was leading a workshop about combating food waste in the professional kitchen. His session was part of numerous seminars, panels, field trips and other programming for the 2017 Chefs Collaborative Summit that was held this month in Atlanta.

Chefs Collaborative is a national nonprofit whose mission is "to inspire, educate and celebrate chefs and food professionals building a better food system." Its vision is for sustainable practices to become second nature for all chefs in this country.

The theme for this year's gathering, the eighth annual, was "Growing Community: Owning the Future." Some 200 people from around the country assembled to hear discussions on topics such as sourcing sustainable seafood; fighting for positive, sensible food policies; and combating equity disparities and social injustices in the hospitality industry.

Among all of the topics at the conference, food waste struck me as the most pressing subject in food right now and the one that all of us can do something about.

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Statistics surrounding food waste in America are alarming: 40 percent of the food produced in this country goes to waste, according to The National Resource Defense Council.  A 2013 report by global nonprofit BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) commissioned by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance  showed that this wasted food costs $750 million per year in disposal fees and translates to 33 million tons of landfill waste. And 44 percent of it, by the way, is residential food waste.

Satterfield is hardly the only person in the country who cares about curbing food waste, but he is in a better position than many to teach the rest of us some best practices.  The 2017 Best Chef: Southeast James Beard Foundation award winner  wrote "Root to Leaf," a cookbook with an eye on making the most out of produce .

Dealing with leftovers, unused odds and ends and cooking mistakes is about diverting waste into flavor. It's an opportunity for creativity rather than an automatic trash can moment.

Here are Satterfield's cooking applications for some three dozen scraps and fading foods that most people toss into the trash:

  • Asparagus bottoms – toss in stock or hard roast and puree into a spread
  • Carrot peelings/carrot tops – fry peelings as a garnish, make carrot tops into a sauce with herbs
  • Fennel fronds, fennel stalks – fronds into an herbal sauce, as garnish, thinly slice fennel stalks and use raw or cooked
  • Lettuce cores, outer leaves – use in stocks or grill and blend into soup
  • Onion, garlic scraps/skins/roots – adds flavor to stocks
  • Leek tops – char and dehydrate, turn into leek ash powder
  • Radish greens – as component in salad, cooked with eggs, sauteed
  • Greens stems – thinly slice and cook prior to adding greens leaves, juice them, blanch them
  • Overripe berries – jam, jelly, preserves, gastrique, muddled in cocktail,
  • Corn cobs – makes sweet, flavorful broth
  • Cucumber peelings/seeds – freeze and add to smoothies, blend into chilled sauce, make cucumber water or soda
  • Overripe figs – jam/preserves or freeze and use in a later
  • Watermelon rinds – a southern tradition, make pickles after removing the peel
  • Bruised stone fruit/stone fruit pits – bake into stewed fruit, jam/preserves, use pits to start a vinegar
  • Blanch and freeze legumes – peas, beans can all be blanched and frozen if not ready to use right away
  • Overripe tomatoes – tomato water, tomato aspic, gazpacho, salsa, tomato juice, crushed tomatoes
  • Apple or pear cores/scraps/skins – clarified jelly
  • Broccoli/cauliflower stalks/leaves – cut into smaller pieces and cook with florets
  • Brussels outer leaves/scraps – add to stocks, use leaves as a raw salad or sauté
  • Fall squash seeds – brine in salt water then roast in oven, use as garnish or snack, make squash seed broth, make crunchy squash seed topping
  • Mushroom stems – flavorful stock ingredient, hard roast first for deeper flavor
  • Sweet potato greens – farmers trim away during growing season, nutritious and delicious, cook like spinach
  • Turnip tops/stems – salad, sauté, thinly slice stems and cook
  • Beet tops/stems – same as above, if young and tender, use as salad greens
  • Celery leaves – garnish, use as herb
  • Citrus peels – cook into marmalade (or just put on stove in pot of water to deodorize a room)
  • Herb stems – dice and add to a dish, pickling liquid, sauce or make an herb oil or vinaigrette
  • Whey – cocktail mixer, sauce base, pickling liquid, fermentation liquid
  • Egg whites – desserts, cocktail mixer, frittata, family meal
  • General aromatic vegetable scrap – save in one central location for stock prep
  • Poultry scraps – bones for stock, scrap for family meal
  • Duck scrap/tenders – special app, make a jus,
  • Pork scraps/bones – scrap for sausage, bones for stock
  • Beef scraps – scrap for burgers, bones for stock
  • Fish scraps/bones – scrap for fish tacos (family meal) or tartar or crudo, bones for fume, pick meat off of collar and cheeks and make fish app

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About the Author

Ligaya Figueras
Ligaya Figueras
Ligaya Figueras joined the AJC as its food and dining editor in 2015.