Around one third of food produced in America is thrown out. But Tim Ma, a former electrical engineer-turned-chef, incorporates food scraps others might throw out, like kale stalks or carrot peels, into dishes at Kyirisan, his Washington, D.C. restaurant. Ma told NPR, “I’m in this fine-dining world, but I spend a lot of time going through my garbage.”
Carrot tops aren’t tossed out at Kyirisan, a MICHELIN Guide 2018 Bib Gourmand awardee. Oh no, they’re given new life in pesto, blended up with basil, parsley, pistachios, water, oil, scallions, and sautéed garlic. Carrot peels become garnishes after they’re fried up into strips. And those kale stalks you might throw out? After being braised and fried, they might find their way into a salad with duck confit, radishes, and pickled shallots at Kyirisan.
NPR said a signature dish of Ma’s, crème fraiche chicken wings with sudachi and gochujang, got its beginnings as an experiment to use up food scraps. At his previous restaurant, Ma would pour sauce he’d created on wings leftover from whole chickens ordered for the restaurant, and serve them to staff. They were so popular they’re now on the Kyirisan dinner menu.
Reducing food waste makes sense environmentally and economically for Ma. He told NPR, “At the end of the day, it’s a business decision. You do this as a function of saving every penny that you can, because the restaurant margins are so slim right now.” Part of what inspired him to cut food waste was his experience with his first restaurant in Virginia, which almost went under months after opening. He realized he could make changes: for example, instead of ordering in bulk via large distributors, he would order just what he needed from local sellers.
Ma told NPR, “I walk through the restaurant and see, this is what I have and I think about tomorrow and today. How much of something do I really need?”
Image via Jackelin Slack on Unsplash