Kim Stodel, lead bartender at Los Angeles’ Providence Restaurant, leaves no ingredient behind with his “zero-waste” cocktail menu.
“When it comes to attempting less waste, you have to reevaluate everything you are doing,” he says. “The first big step was paying attention to my garbage can, and asking myself if what I was about to throw away was truly trash. If not, could I reuse it in an intelligent, practical, and efficient way? What are ways that I can reuse this thing and how do I get there? On the other hand, it has to make sense and ideally take little effort as making something takes energy and energy creates waste.”
Once Stodel had the process in place, he broadened it to include the kitchen and started looking at what they were throwing away.
“It became like a game,” he continues. “Instead of going to the farmers market, which the kitchen does anyway, my market became the kitchen, and my farmers were the line cooks. Because cooks, unlike bartenders, are trained to be efficient conservationists, they would offer to save their scraps for me, if I could use them.”
Stodel’s creations for spring 2017 include the Margarita-Paloma hybrid Mano de Chango, which repurposes guava pulp from the syrup to create a fruit leather garnish. Notify the Mayor is another addition with syrup concocted from lime juice and zest along with celery root scraps and garnish made from pickled celery root. For the Muay Thai (a Thai take on a Mai Tai), he makes a rum infusion in a Cryo bag from lemongrass, ginger, and leftover kaffir lime. He takes the remaining ingredients from the infusion to create a fruit leather garnish by dehydrating them overnight.
Stodel offers some tips to implement your own “Zero Waste” program:
- Pay attention to your garbage can. Is what you are throwing away truly trash?
- What are the ways that you can reuse said trash or produce?
- Flavor things through infusions. For example, parsnip skins make a great vodka infusion.
- If you infuse a spirit, can the ingredients you used to infuse be used again for something else like a garnish? I often turn fruit pulp used for syrups and shrubs into fruit leather or candy for garnish.
- To rim glasses, dehydrate scraps and grind into powders or use scraps to flavor salt or sugar for rimming glasses.
- Make oils to garnish drinks from discarded produce scraps (at Providence, we make a pea oil using discarded pea pods).
- Make vinegars from flat wines and use those vinegars to make shrubs or as an ingredient for a drink.
- Consider the straw. Perhaps invest in reusable metal straws or purchase biodegradable ones, such as the ones we get from the Tehachapi Grain Project.
- Consider ice usage. Instead of burning your ice, transfer it to a water collection drum that you can use to water gardens or plants.
By Elise Glickman