The culinary world is undergoing something of a revolution. The information age has increased our appetite for information and trying new things. But it also shines a spotlight on the people behind these processes.

Where fine dining was once the preserve of the elite, it has become an inclusive playground of fusion eating, modern culinary creations that merit art exhibitions, and, beyond food, a glimpse into the life of the artist behind the dish.

Worldwide, we waste 1.3-billion tonnes of food a year, yet almost a billion people go to bed hungry every night

As much as earning a Michelin star is an unbelievable privilege, it also comes with the responsibility to keep challenging yourself and innovating. You can’t get too comfortable.

In my opinion, the most important food trend in the world right now centres on waste. The statistics are sobering. Worldwide, we waste 1.3-billion tonnes of food a year, yet almost a billion people go to bed hungry every night. This is a major concern in the culinary industry, as we can make a big difference in this area.

One of the frontrunners in reducing food waste is chef Massimo Bottura, owner of the world-famous restaurant, Osteria Francescana, who became involved in a feeding programme last year during the Rio Olympics. In identifying his main objective, he concluded that to feed the planet, we must fight waste.

From a local perspective, while half of South Africans don’t have enough food to eat, the country loses 34% of the food it produces every year through waste in agriculture production, handling and storage, processing and packaging, and distribution. Consumers contribute a very small percentage of these statistics, but by becoming more aware of wastefulness and by supporting those organisations that actively reduce food waste, we can all help to combat the problem.

For example, Woolworths, in reaction to the Western Cape’s water crisis, has recently implemented a water-conservation programme that it not only follows internally, but disseminates throughout its supply chain.

But influencing suppliers to change their ways takes time. What is completely within our control is what we do at home. And there are plenty of ways to reduce our food waste.

1. WORK OUT A WEEKLY MENU

Plan ahead. Think of ways you can use the same ingredients in different meals. Through planning, you will shop smarter by buying only what you need — and save a bit of money in the process.

2. GET CREATIVE

Try to use everything in your kitchen by attempting to cook something you haven’t made before. You can mash leftover sweet potatoes, for instance, to make fish cakes. Who knows, the ideas you come up with for #LeftOverMondays could become the main event at your next dinner party.

3. TASTE BEFORE YOU WASTE

Keep in mind that best-before dates are more about quality than safety, so trust your senses. We are hardwired to react to food that is bad for us. If smelling food still leaves you doubtful, let your taste buds do the testing. You’ll know immediately.

4. CHECK YOUR PORTIONS

Ask yourself: how much is too much? Often, we throw food away because our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Another pitfall is racking up the stuff that is meant to be good for us. Irrespective of whether it’s healthy, too much of anything will work against us. More doesn’t necessarily amount to better value.

5. STORE IT, SAVE IT

Do a bit of research on how to store food properly using wet towels and re-usable containers. Many fruits and vegetables actually benefit from being outside the fridge, leaving more space for perishable leftovers. And if there’s still some left over, donate it to someone who could use it.

6. GET TECHNICAL

By adding new cooking techniques and recipes to your repertoire, you will not only stretch your food budget further, but will also add a new dimension to your cooking. Pickling or making jam are great ways to preserve fruits and vegetables. And if you’re implementing a personal sugar tax, use chia seeds instead. Pickled vegetables, incidentally, make great toppings for sandwiches or salads.

Trends come and go, but the fact that leftover food can be a delicious meal is nothing new. From French Toast (or pain perdu, which literally translates as “lost bread”) and hearty soups to frittatas, hummus, and banana bread, the options are almost endless.

We just need to start looking at food’s potential rather than its superficial imperfections.


MEET THE MICHELIN MAN

Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, will be one of the international headliners at the 2017 Good Food and Wine Show, which opens on Friday June 2 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. He will be preparing a chefs’ table with British chef and TV personality Marco Pierre White, as well as demonstrating in the Chefs Open Theatre. goodfoodandwineshow.co.za

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