A Great Dinner Made From Food That Was Destined For The Trash Bin

In the spirit of meals served at Dan Barber's recent WastED pop-up at Blue Hill in New York City, Barcelona's Semproniana restaurant held an unusual "Sopar GastroRécup," or Gastro-Rescue Dinner, on Wednesday night. More than 100 guests enjoyed a three-course meal made entirely from products rejected by the commercial food supply chain.

The restaurant's owner–chef, Ada Parellada, and her crew were especially gleeful about the salmon bones from Mercabarna, the city's wholesale food market — the remains of a couple of dozen salmon that had been filleted for commercial sale, leaving sufficient meat on the skeletons to scrape off to make salmon tartare. Other items: tiny new potatoes that had begun to sprout, nearly 100 percent edible; green peppers in eccentric curlicues, but without a blemish; an eggplant with an unfortunate wound in its lustrous purple skin, but otherwise perfect; broccoli going a little brown around the edges, but still good; two cases of donkey ear lettuces oxidized on the outside leaves, but with plenty of perfectly pristine lettuce within.... Each food product had its own story, and Ada Parellada knew them all: the bananas with discolored skins and soupy interiors (ideal for a banana coulis), the blue cheese with the damaged packaging, the yogurt with the expired use-by date.

"The dinner will be composed of 13 dishes, and each diner will get a first course, a second course, and a dessert for the price of four euros [about $4.50]," Parellada told me before the event. "Beverages are extra. Diners will not all get the same dishes. Using recycled produce, we can't be sure of a uniform supply of this or that product to be able to serve, say, 75 celery salads, or 75 salmon tartares, so diners will get an assortment — a potpourri, so to speak — of different products."

The dinner is the first of what professionals in the food waste management field hope will be many events of its kind, dramatizing the food waste problem in Europe and worldwide.  

Parellada, an icon of culinary tradition and innovation in Catalunya for decades, was recently approached by Spora Sinergies, a social consulting firm with a team of food waste prevention specialists, to participate in a pilot project featuring a LeanPath Zap food-waste tracker for kitchen use. Spora embraced food waste prevention when Spora's Noel Garcia began working with Paco Muñoz (an environmental expert from the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona) and Toni Massanés of Fundació Alícia. Together, they brought in LeanPath experts to advise the Catalan government and the city of Barcelona on food waste prevention in the food service sector.

According to a statement by the Catalan Waste Agency and the university, "Food waste is a global problem with more than 1,300 million tons lost worldwide between the fields and our plates. In Catalunya alone, we throw away 260,000 tons of food annually, and the restaurant sector is not exempt, as between 4 percent and 10 percent of the food bought by hotels, restaurants, and cafés ends up in [trash] containers unnecessarily." 

Diners at Semproniana enjoyed at least a small portion of what would otherwise have been thrown away, enjoying some combination of the following dishes: soup of bread and tomato squeezings; sautéed vegetables with sun-dried tomatoes; celery salad with blue cheese, apples, and nuts; creamy macaroni with basil and tomato; salmon tartare with fresh cottage cheese; olive flatbread with vegetables and arugula salad; raw chopped cabbage with duck wings; salt cod stewed with carrots; roast botifarra sausage with sautéed apples; thin-sliced pork loin potato cream; chocolate biscuits with bananas and coffee cream; fresh pineapple with cheesecake; and mixed fruit with yogurt foam.

There were no speeches during the dinner, but each table signed a "manifesto" stressing the urgency of addressing the food waste management problem around the world.

And oh, by the way, the cuisine was impeccable: fresh, original, and fragrant... and no one left anything on his or her plate.