Chef's 'dumpster dive' nets feast

By Amelia Wade

Ben Barton cooked a vegetarian meal for 32 people using food thrown out by supermarkets. Photo / Dean Purcell
Ben Barton cooked a vegetarian meal for 32 people using food thrown out by supermarkets. Photo / Dean Purcell

Supermarkets and food retailers' leftovers are an Auckland chef's treasure.

After spending a couple of nights "dumpster diving", Ben Barton last night served 32 people a feast made of ingredients binned by shops.

The thought might inspire images of half-eaten cheeseburgers covered in grime, but the chef pulled wrapped bread baked that morning, fresh produce, chocolate and even wasted bottles of champagne from the dumpsters.

For anyone none the wiser, it could have been a feast sourced from a farmers' market.

Romesco, a nut and red pepper-based sauce, with crumbed smoked gouda was one of the five canapes.

Again there were more options as the mains came out, panade with greens and cheese, potato and bread salads followed by banana bread pudding. Almost the entire menu, which was vegetarian, was made from supermarkets' leftovers, though he bought seasonings and a few other ingredients to complete the dishes.

"I knew I was going to get a lot of bread because they have to throw it out because it was baked that morning, so I based the dishes on that," Mr Barton said.

Mr Barton used the challenge to highlight the amount of food binned by retailers and restaurants.

Collecting edible food from bins is gathering steam overseas. Thousands of New Yorkers have been rummaging through dumpsters behind food chains as part of the "freegan" movement in which environmentalists live off throwaway food as a political statement against corporate waste and big agri-business.

Mr Barton, who discovered dumpster diving while in Manhattan, finds the waste generated by the modern food system irritating.

"I hoped I wouldn't encounter the same in my beloved ... New Zealand but I have found that Auckland food retailers throw away enough food, of such quality, that I can turn it into an extravagant gourmet meal."

Menu

Entree

Ajoblanco - a spanish soup with almonds, garlic, olive oil, grapes
Three types of crostini
Romesco - a nut and red pepper-based sauce with crumbed smoked gouda

Main

Panade - a dish made from bread that's similar to lasagne
Potato cakes with tomato sauce
Potato salad
Salad with greens, croutons, pinenuts, parmesan, sundried tomatoes and radish

Dessert

Bread and banana pudding.

- NZ Herald

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