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The mysterious candles that top the tables are made from beef tallow that can later be eaten with bread. Photo: Laura Mordas-Schenkein

Barber, a long-time advocate of the locavore movement and sustainable food awareness, created WastED as an experiment to see how foods that are usually thrown away could be reimagined as viable (and still perfectly delicious) ingredients. The menu consists of plates created by Barber and a roster of other celebrity guest chefs including Mario Batali, Philippe Bertineau, Alain Ducass, Dominique Crenn, Bill Telepan and Mads Refslund. The a la carte options, all priced at $15 each, star typically unloved characters like unfit potatoes, bruised beets, reject carrots, second-class grains and seeds, and the little bits of “everything” left over from everything bagels. And to wash it all down, there’s a healthy selection of wine from waste-conscious wineries as well as mixed drinks like a Wasted Citrus Sangria and a Sweet Vermouth made of last night’s wine and spent gin botanicals.

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Fried Skate Wing Cartilage served with tarter sauce infused with smoked whitefish heads. Photo: Thomas Schauer

Since WastED is no ordinary restaurant, Barber looked to Garrett Ricciardi and Julian Rose of Brooklyn-based formlessfinder, known for their inventive installations such as a tent pavilion supported by a giant sand pile, to design an equally thought-provoking dining experience. Tasked with creating an entirely new environment within Blue Hill’s existing space in a timeframe of just six weeks, Ricciardi and Rose headed up to Barber’s base of operations in Pocantico Hills, NY for inspiration.

“Throughout the process we worked with Dan Barber and his team to re-imagine the dining room experience in a way that connected the pop-up design to the restaurant’s agricultural production and waste concept at as many levels as possible,” Ricciardi told us. “Much of what we did came from learning about the food being preparing for WastED, and through several visits to Blue Hill at Stone Barns – touring the kitchens, farm and greenhouses to see what materials and processes might potentially work their way into the design. It was very inspiring to see him and his chefs at work in the kitchen testing menu ideas. What they’ve done is very experimental and process based – it’s about transforming material that would otherwise be ignored, undervalued, or discarded into something delicious. That process and materials-based approach is very similar to what we do in architecture. Many of our projects re-examine raw or waste materials – things that most people probably think you couldn’t make a building out of – and look for alternative and unexpected ways to create architecture from them.”

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Ricciardi inside the transformed WastED space.

One of formlessfinder’s other goals was to give WastED a more casual and communal vibe than Blue Hill. “If you come here under normal conditions, it’s more of a fine dining restaurant,” Ricciardi told us. “Our hope was that the design for the pop-up would change the atmosphere so that it’s a bit more playful. We have a 20-person table that runs down the center at bar height so it’s more communal and social.”

RELATED: RESTAURANT REVIEW: Blue Hill at Stone Barns is All That and a Bag of Homemade Veggie Chips

Two main materials were used in formlessfinder’s design for WastED. “The first is an agricultural fabric called Remay (or Reemay) that Blue Hill uses at their Stone Barn greenhouse,” said Ricciardi. “Basically it’s a drop cover that they put over produce and vegetables they’re growing to help reduce waste in the growing process. It keeps pests and insects off the material and really maximizes the output of the crops.”

The diaphanous Remay sheets that drape the walls seem to allude to the culinary surgery taking place in the kitchen.

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“The second material we used was a collaboration with a company called Ecovative,” Ricciardi continued. “They produce a material that can be used for architectural and structural purposes out of corn waste and mushroom. And the interesting thing about this is that the waste actually goes into a recipe for the material and the second thing is that there are no cutoffs in the material the way you would traditionally with metalwork or carpentry. You might cut things and have waste, but if you’re growing the material from scratch, you never have any waste.”

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The dark table-top surface is a fiber board made of material that’s sourced from forest waste, residue from timber mills, and recycled pine.

In addition to the food and decor, even the smaller details, such as mismatched napkins and cast-off plates that didn’t make the manufacturer’s final cut, reflect WastED’s ethos.

But with such emphasis placed on curbing waste at the pop-up, we had to wonder how much food is left on the plates at the end of the night. “There’s very little,” said a source at Blue Hill. “We are finding that guests are clearing their plates at the end of the WastED meal.”

+ WastED

+ formlessfinder

Photos by Laura Mordas-Schenkein except where noted.