Good taste, no waste | Otago Daily Times News Online

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Auckland restaurateur Nick Loosley showcased his Everybody Eats concept in Dunedin last week, creating a recycled dinner in collaboration with the Recycled Food Lab at the University of Otago Food Waste Innovation. Rebecca Fox discovers what drives these initiatives.

Never knowing which ingredients you’re going to cook with each day is usually a cook’s worst nightmare, but that doesn’t stop chefs lining up to participate in Nick Loosley’s Everybody Eats restaurants.

Everybody Eats is an a la carte dining experience available in Auckland and Wellington. It offers restaurant quality three course meals using food that would have been wasted.

This is the brainchild of Loosley, who first saw the enormous amount of food wasted while researching for his Masters in Green Economy.

“And the quality of the food that is wasted.”

He volunteered and visited 12 projects, including a couple working with salvaged or surplus food in the UK and Spain, while learning about different ways these initiatives are changing the food system.

“I saw the impact they had on a social level rather than an environmental and food point of view. I thought I would really like to create a version of that in New Zealand because we have problems of food waste and food poverty similar to those in the UK. “

So when he returned to New Zealand, he started working at KiwiHarvest, founded in Dunedin in 2012 and Auckland in 2015 by Deborah Manning to save good food for food companies – including supermarkets, wholesalers, producers, cafes, restaurants and hotels – which they are not able to sell and distribute to those who have low food security or who live in poverty.

“I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel and wanted to work with people doing similar things.”

However, he soon realized that his concept had to be self-contained.

“It was never going to materialize in any other organization, so I did it myself.”

Everybody Eats works with food rescue charities like KiwiHarvest and also collects some of their own food, and with the help of a few staff and volunteers, turns it into restaurant quality meals.

He has a restaurant five evenings a week in Onehunga, a pop-up in central Auckland once a week, and a restaurant three evenings a week in Wellington. They also hope to reopen a restaurant in Tauranga soon.

“We invite the community to come and enjoy and pay what they want. We feed a lot of vulnerable people, homeless people, single parents, working poor, people with drug addiction and they come to eat; some pay, some don’t and it’s usually a really good communal atmosphere where people from all walks of life get to know each other and share stories around the table. “

In Auckland they serve around 280 people a night and in Wellington around 180. In Onehunga, which is more in the suburbs, they serve around 90 to 100 people.

“The plates look like you would be served in a restaurant.”

Securing food waste has become increasingly difficult since the Covid-19 coup, as more and more organizations attempt to access available surplus food, he says.

“We’ve actually been struggling a bit lately with the amount of food we’ve been given, so we could always do more.”

Since they do not know what food will be available to them on a daily basis, they have to be “extremely” creative with their menus.

“Our menu changes daily in each location.”

The organization is a charitable organization and therefore relies on grants, fundraising and donations to continue.

Loosley, who owns two restaurants in the Bay of Islands, says his dining experience has been invaluable in this business, “although I have become more and more involved in the kitchen.”

The kitchens are occupied mainly by volunteers who are the “backbone” of the organization, he says.

He tries to make things fun and rewarding for volunteers and is an over-subscriber in restaurants in central Auckland and Wellington.

Balmac Chef # 7 Greg Piner was one of the chefs who attended the Dunedin event – along with his colleague Logan Wilson, and Jack Gould and Nicolo Mollica from the Esplanade – as he viewed him as a way of giving back to the community and an extension of restaurant waste management and recycling.

“You’d be amazed at what people throw in, and personally, it really opened my eyes.”

The challenges of the event were to ensure that the food was not only good, but also delicious, such as “the incredible carrot and baked apple hummus with chickpea meringue”.

“It was great to be involved and we would love to do it again.”

Loosley says New Zealand has improved dramatically over the past five or six years thanks to changes in food law that allow the use of food safe for human consumption to be donated or reused when cannot be sold.

While the Dunedin event was vegan, Everybody Eats uses meat, but has a vegetarian option.

Access to the meat is through a relationship with the Auckland Farro store and Food Rescue Operations which freeze the meat once it cannot be sold, which in turn allows it to ‘be donated to charities.

Chicken is one of the most versatile proteins to use, as it pairs well with most vegetables that can be provided to them, he says.

“Most of the food is manageable. We get a lot of the basics – carrots, potatoes, onions, things that lend themselves well to large-scale cooking, and fairly comfortable foods – we need to make sure our menus aren’t polarized. We aim for rich dishes, hearty food. “

The success of Everybody Eats has sparked interest across the country, with many cities hoping it will expand to other centers.

“Every city in New Zealand has contacted us to ask when are we going to see them.”

Loosley doesn’t feel the need to develop for the sake of it. He’s more interested in growing up and making sure the organization stays true to its core values, but he has plans for another restaurant in Auckland.

Coming to Dunedin for the Upcycled Food event allowed Loosley to make more contacts here.

“There was definitely some interest when we were there. “

Loosley thinks running a weekly “pop-up” would be the best idea for the city, then potentially expanding it to a permanent restaurant.

He was invited to cook the International Science Festival meal by University of Otago Associate Professor Miranda Mirosa, a member of the Champions 12.3 food waste organization, co-chaired by Manning and Mirosa.

Professor Mirosa is Director of the Food Waste Innovation Research Theme at the University of Otago and leads a team that measures food waste, develops reduction strategies, applies innovative technologies and strives to change the behavior of producers and consumers.

They saw the science festival as an opportunity to raise awareness of food waste issues with a fun event.

Everyone Eats was a “win-win” concept that not only removed food from the waste stream, but also fed people who might not have access to good food in a dignified way, so it made sense. to involve them in the Dunedin event, she says.

University students involved in food waste recovery were also testing products such as crackers made from carrot waste and fruit leather from persimmons that would normally become pig feed.

She was delighted that both sessions sold out quickly.

“Everyone is very sensitive to food waste. It’s something everyone is okay with.”

Since some 8% of greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste, it’s one of the simplest things people can do to tackle climate change, she says.

“It’s everyone’s problem and everyone has a role to play in the solution.”

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