My quick trip to London last week involved an exciting visit to Selfridges to eat at Dan Barber’s pop-up wastED. This is a project I have been very lucky to be involved in over the past few months working at Gilchesters who have supplied Dan with their waste products. Dan Barber is a big name on the international food scene, most notably he was appointed as Barack Obama’s adviser for health and nutrition and awarded a James Beard award for the best chef in america.
Dan has two restaurants, Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. His Stone Barns plot puts his theories into practice. He has a mixed organic farm at Stone Barns as an example of how we can use the land in a more sustainable way for both the environment and the people it feeds. Foragers go out daily and provide the chefs with daily challenges of creating different dishes for the restaurant. This is no ordinary restaurant I am told by my boss at Gilchesters who visited Stone Barns in October; no menu and an array of futuristic dishes are brought to your table using ingredients grown on the farm.
He has written a book The Third Plate which documents all of his agricultural research and really pushes the boundaries of how food can be used in a more sustainable way. It is not only very informative but also written in an entertaining way, a seriously thought-provoking way. As Adam Kaye says, it makes you look at the food in your fridge through different lenses. His philosophy pushes nose-to-tail eating one step further than of just an animal. Dan believes in eating nose to tail of the whole farm - he is a key player in the Farm to Fork movement.
Although eating the nose to tail of the farm is an established concept in his American restaurants, it has taken Dan and his team a year of research in the UK to bring his wastED idea to the table in London. Alternative agricultural methods and markets mean different parts of plants and animals go to waste in the UK. Dan and his team have sourced and created markets for these waste products through his wastED menu. I even took down some Gilchesters clover to be used on the menu the day after i ate there. Clover is normally grown as a cover crop to replenish the soil in organic farming rotations, but Tom Hunt was using it in his wastED dish.
Eating at wastED was certainly an experience I won’t forget. It requires you to be an adventurous eater. Probably the most unappetising dish that arrived on our table was a giant cod’s head. However it was the perfect example of how we should push our culinary comfort zones beyond the fillet of fish that we are used to eating. The meat was in-fact deliciously tender and the waiter even persuaded me to eat the tongue!
Every night there is a different guest chef who has prepared a wastED dish to serve up. Our guest chefs were Mark Dobbie and Andy Oliver from Som Saa. They had created a selection of delicious mouthfuls of aged beef ends with gangal trim, fermented cauliflower leaves with crispy pork skin and sour apple seconds with fish skin.
Working on this project and eating at wastED has certainly broadened my horizons - not just my pallet, but also the way we should be moving towards more sustainable eating. The menu at Selfridges shows certainly that this does not have to be boring.
wastED will run until April 2nd. It is fully booked but has a few walk in tables available each night.
For more info head click here to see more about wastED.