The mere mention of food waste is enough to make most of us feel guilty. Did you know that the food waste in Asia put together accounts for 1.3 billion tonnes per year? The amount of annual global food waste produced is more than sufficient to feed nearly 1 billion hungry people in the world. Shocking, but true. Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food are lost or wasted, several times what’s needed to feed every hungry person on the planet.

Chefs are more than just masters at producing mouth-watering dishes — they’re also pros at reducing daily food waste in their restaurant, or perhaps, in their home kitchen as well.

In this article, we went deeper into the resorts’ kitchens to find out how the chefs minimise their food waste, how they prioritise it in their kitchens and how they are experimenting with innovative techniques to reduce food waste in the culinary industry.

Through casual interviews with lots of laughs, this compilation focuses on the perspective of top-level chefs, highlighting their love of food, their respect for culture, and their admiration of cooking.

Name: Joseph Antonishek

Position: Senior Executive Chef SEAP

Venue: Karma Group

Cost control is a part of being a chef. They always say “A chef is only as good as his/her last dish served.” But really, the value of a chef besides good food is managing cost, leadership, mentoring, and all of that. We try to minimise food waste, and we donate or used vegetable fryer oil to this person who turns around and cleans it and then sells it further. So it’s ending up down the line somewhere, the same thing with our staff. A lot of them raise chickens or other animals, and they take some of the food waste to feed their animals.

Name: Ben Harrington

Position: Executive Chef

Venue: Mamaka by Ovolo

Within the company, a group initiative has been implemented called ‘Do good, feel good’. So do good things for the environment. One of the things that come full of that is sustainability. We’re going to work with this company, Earth Check, and tell them all the things that we do to make sure that we’re promoting sustainable practices within our hotel. We’ve just implemented a green team, where we are going to sit down monthly and go through what we can do. For example, we use a lot of dragon fruit, but the leftover skin we give to the bar and they make a welcome drink from it. We have little things in place at the moment like that, what we’re doing to prevent food waste. Also, we do a la carte for breakfast, so we don’t have to fill up big breakfast buffets. We only buy what we need and use.

Another example that we implement in the hotel is that we work with Urban Compost, which is a local company. Any by-products that we can’t use – such as eggshells, avocado skins, or banana skins – we give it to them and they then turn into compost. We have our own garden area, where we use compost from our own food waste. So the food waste comes back to the hotel, to fertilise our own garden area, and produce our own food.

Name: Eric Cocollos

Position: Executive Chef

Venue: The Apurva Kempinski Bali

They try to separate everything, but waste is one of his biggest challenges from here. Also because of all the employees, we must change the mindset of all the people. Step by step. They first have to understand the problem before the people start doing it. In The Apurva Kempinski Bali, we separate everything from plastic to glass and etcetera. And we try to recycle as much as possible. I believe with passion and kindness, we can obtain what we want.

The Apurva Kempinksi Bali has a programme with the green team. One of the programmes is ‘no bin days’ where people cannot have any waste. For example, at the buffet people always get more food than they can actually eat, so having ‘no bin days’, the hotel tries to reduce the waste at the buffet by asking people if they can eat all the food or clarifying to them that they cannot throw away leftovers. We also use nudges at the buffet such as flyers with texts.

Name: Stefano Artosin

Position: Executive Chef

Venue: Anantara Layan Phuket Resort

Across all our restaurants at Anantara Layan Phuket Resort, we prioritise reducing food wastage. We source only premium produce. Ingredients are carefully transported to the resort in order to arrive undamaged. Our menus are designed around using 100 per cent (where possible) of the produce and ingredients that we order. Our restaurant teams are trained to keep track of ingredients. Older ingredients are used first and our chefs are taught to upcycle extra ingredients into different dishes and to get creative by using excess seasonal ingredients. Peels and discarded eggshells are used as compost.

With the cost of ingredients on the rise and the rarity of procuring certain produce, our chefs have to be conscious of minimising food wastage whilst still delivering a fine dining, luxury experience. We are doing fermentation of imperfect and sell-by-date produce to make house-made sauces, vegetable extracts and preserves. We do an accurate market as an important tool that we utilise daily. We use locally sourced ingredients with scheduled deliveries to reduce waste. Also, where necessary, we utilise blast chillers to help us preserve food – this helps to keep natural flavours for longer.

As for the methods, we ferment and pickle fruit and vegetables to create natural vinegar and preserves for use throughout the year. Discarded vegetables and peels are used to enhance the flavour of stocks and sauces. We re-utilise ‘leftover’ food for different preparations. We promote a farm-to-table ethos. Our menus are designed with this goal in mind. We grow many of our own Thai herbs and some of the more unique local vegetables – we try to creatively feature the root, stem, leaf and flower in our dishes. Nose-to-tail cooking, which we favour at Age restaurant, utilises the whole animal or fish and is definitely a sustainable method to reduce food waste. For example, fish heads and bones make excellent stock. The resort also raises hens outdoors for their delicious eggs. They are free from hormones and antibiotics.

Name: Nicholas Van Riemsdijk

Position: Executive Chef

Venue: Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu

Controlling the temperature and storage conditions of the food product is essential in controlling food waste, as well as regular training of kitchen staff on food preparation, storage, and disposal. We create kitchen production lists to guide the team to produce the correct amounts to the forecasted level of business. At the same time, we try to educate the guests to not take more than they can eat by using signage on the buffets. We also weigh the food wastage every day and evaluate where the wastage has come from and why. Although we have menu cycles, we change them to utilise products we need to use up. We also have clear refuse bags so the food wastage is visible.

The most important point here to make is, controlled or not, operations will always have food waste, and it is just as important that the food waste is environmentally recycled back into the food chain. 97% of Radisson Blu Hotel Cebu’s solid waste is environmentally recycled by a third party. We have also recently started composting fruit peelings using the Bokashi method and the excess food waste is composted by a third party in the north of Cebu.

Secondly, many groceries, restaurants and hotels in the West are donating food that is still safe to eat (but not at prime quality levels) to food banks and shelters for homeless people and animal shelters. Sadly, for many years companies were apprehensive to do this, to avoid any possible liability cases brought on by ambulance chaser lawyers. Unfortunately, I have not seen this practice over the years in the developing countries I have worked in.

Name: Piya Suthasiri

Position: Executive Chef

Venue: Dusit Thani Lubi Plantation Resort

Minimising food waste should start with assessing orders and asking what is necessary for consumption. Re-evaluating this would definitely make good results. Since we offer buffets and have several banquets frequently, food production should be measurable, and replenishments should be according to the sequence of operation. Big bulk cooking versus table reservations is what we balance out. Lastly, for a la carte orders, minimising par stocking to ensure fresh products is something we practice in our properties.

Prioritising minimal food waste means maximising consumption. Food transfer is a practice we usually do, with food safety at top of our minds. Food waste from preparation is also turned into composts – an upcoming project we are doing at Dusit Thani Lubi Plantation Resort to have our own farm-to-table nursery.

In my years of experience, innovations to reduce food waste always come down to the simple and common things that have a great impact. First, the farm-to-table concept is something I have adapted as this allows me to harvest enough for the consumption forecasted. This ensures minimal food spoilage. Knowing your food processor is also key, so evaluating the products one needs before procurement is essential.