Keith A. Lord is a global chef with a creative and conscientious approach to food. He strives to reduce waste by rescuing imperfect produce from local farmers, regrowing watercress in coolers behind the catering kitchen, and turning kitchen “trash” into treasure.

Lord says he’s motivated by an abiding respect for food—and sees waste as a personal challenge. He credits his principled approach to cooking in two formative kitchens: one in Hawaii, where the majority of ingredients came out of the water, and another in San Francisco, where the fridge was packed to the brim with local produce each week. His mission was to use every last morsel so the kitchen could start over again with fresh ingredients the following Monday.

In the catering and restaurant world, waste is a reality, but implementing simple and inventive practices make a positive impact. Lord says one of the easiest methods to reduce waste is to consider the potential of kitchen scraps that would otherwise be bound for the bin. Strawberry tops are incorporated into tapenade, carrot greens are transformed into pesto, and charred onion scraps become a sweet and decorative ash to top shots of Mexican street corn.

Some of the  most eye-catching dishes have been inspired almost entirely by cast-offs, like the Tuscan Five-Spice Grouper with seasoning crafted from bruised mint, citrus peels, and vanilla pods and a root vegetable peel salad. “It’s a beautiful dish, and most of the flavor comes from scraps,” says Lord.

But the most dynamic presentation of waste reduction might be the painted tablescapes—lively food installations highlighting deconstructed takes on savory and sweet dishes ranging from cassoulet to peach cobbler. The experience unfolds like a flash mob performance, where elements of the dish are strewn and swirled across the table covered in recycled paper. Guests scoop up bites with edible implements like toast or doughnuts. There’s no cutlery or plates involved, and practically no waste.

With time and creativity, it’s possible for every chef and home cook to reduce waste and use ingredients to their full potential.

Grilling citrus is clever but aren't the pickled cherry blossoms in the top right are stunning?

Three Waste-Less Recipes to Try at Home

Image: Olivia Hayo.

Waste Less Cooking: Tuscan Five-Spice Grouper with Shaved Vegetable Salad

This beautiful recipe makes the most of bruised or leftover herbs and citrus. Feel free to substitute other local fish.

Image: Olivia Hayo.

Waste Less Cooking: Avocado Feta Ranch Dressing

Don't throw away that discolored avocado or the juice left in your feta container. This recipe from chef Keith Lord will turn your scraps into a luscious dressing.

Image: Yingko on iStock.

Waste Less Cooking: Furikake Fried Vegetable Peels

Instead of throwing away your potato peels, make a batch of these addictively crunchy, umami-rich snacks.

Edible San Diego issue 52 spring 2019
Cover photo by Olivia Hayo.

This article updated from its original version. Published in the print edition of Edible San Diego's spring 2019 issue.

Available to read online here.

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