Londoners throw out the most food of anybody in the UK, according to research into the country’s food wastage habits released last month – and we feel pretty rotten about it.
Almost 30% of us bin at least one tenth of the fruit and vegetables we buy each week, (well above the national average of 22%) and more than half say they feel stressed about how much food they waste, according to the survey from food tech firm It’s Fresh!
Smack bang in the heart of Spitalfields, chef Adam Handling is the kind of composter we all strive to be. The former Masterchef: The Professionals cook takes a sustainable approach to designing dishes for his Spitalfields restaurant, The Frog E1, farming his own produce, cooking nose-to-tail, and sending what he can’t use back into the fields to fertilize the next crop.
Feeling guilty about tossing the contents of your vegetable crisper yet? Wait until you hear how Adam turned a passion for food waste reduction into a thriving side business in the form of Bean & Wheat.
Dishing up salads, sandwiches and coffee for locals workers to eat in or take away, this deli and cafe might have been a fairly bog standard addition to an already packed grab-and-go scene were it not for the fact that Bean and Wheat was actually conceived as a repository for food off-cuts and by-products Adam wasn’t able to use.
Wastage from the dinner service at The Frog is carted across Commercial Street to Bean & Wheat each morning, ready to be boiled, chopped, pickled and preserved into something fresh for lunch.
Kilner jars line the walls next to the counter; their contents changing with the leftovers from the night before.
When we visit, it’s smoked mackerel, pork terrine, an earthy hummus drizzled with herb oil made from the tops of herbs, pickled root vegetables, plus a couple of jams and chutneys, and The Frog’s famous chicken butter; creamy butter whipped with roasting sauces.
Sit in with a couple of slices of fresh sourdough, or take a couple of the jars home to stash in your pantry (though bear in mind, returning them to the restaurant will earn you plenty of praise and a free coffee).
But fermentation is not Adam’s only solution to our food waste epidemic. Bean & Wheat’s salads are changing daily and made from seasonal vegetable off-cuts, such as cauliflower stalks, grains and beans, while Adam’s own Black & White pressed juice brand gives purpose to the ‘ugly duckling’ produce that others rejected.
Adam opened a second Frog restaurant in Covent Garden in September, and while the new kitchen currently transports its food scraps and wastage back to E1, he is already searching for another satellite site for Bean & Wheat in the West End. It’s all part of the group’s plan to eliminate food wastage from its restaurants altogether.
“I think there’s a real demand for innovative food to grab and go,” Adam says.
“On the other hand, wastage is an issue that’s increasingly important in our industry, and one that’s close to my heart.
“Restaurants tend to waste so much food on a day-to-day basis, and we are trying to tackle this – in the next few years we hope to reach zero-waste status.”