Our new "Traditional" hors d'oeuvres line is one that we're thrilled to share with guests at events in the New Year! But, it's not traditional as in the standard passed bites you've nibbled on at countless parties in the past. It's traditional because it pays tribute to the timeless mission to reduce waste.
Executive Creative Chef Mark Russell noticed a rather full compost bin one day while in the Great Performances’ (GP) kitchen. As he began to sift through the discarded scraps he discovered parsley and broccoli stems, cauliflower cores and even slivers of salmon belly.
Chef Mark’s role includes designing menus with high quality ingredients and so he recognized the value of what lay in the trash. Inspired by a conversation with CEO Liz Neumark, Chef Mark realized that something greater could be done to reclaim the compost vegetable, fruit, meat and fish scraps.
After extensive research and much experimentation, the seasonal menu was expanded to include a new offering of “traditional” hors d’oeuvres in homage to the time honored culinary tradition of conserving waste. Think Root-to-Frond or, Nose-to-Tail as these new items attempt to utilize the entire plant and animal.
Recipe origins for these items are in fact not new, but rather historic. While creating GP’s traditional hors d’oeuvres, Chef Mark recalled his grandmother and mother’s habits. During the depression of the 1920’s. both sets of Chef Mark’s grandparents maintained vegetable gardens, kept chickens, and traded with neighbors for variety.
It was during Chef Mark’s childhood, in the late sixties and seventies, when the economy seemed to dip, that his mother would carefully consider what the family would eat for dinner: What would be packed in lunch bags and whether there would be an afternoon snack for his brother, sister and himself. Most importantly, Chef Mark’s mother critically assessed what would end up in the trash and determined that little would.
Thoughtfulness was at the center of her kitchen where nothing went to waste. Leftover potatoes were fried up with eggs in the morning. Sunday roasts became sandwiches throughout the week. Day old bread transformed into French toast. Soups, stews, casseroles - a myriad of culinary strategies made food waste an unwelcomed guest in the kitchen.
We discovered that most of us have similar memories of the way our grandmothers and mothers cooked with equal parts love and thriftiness. The deep respect for the ingredients, inspires chefs and home cooks to cook creatively and with passion that also results in less waste. This traditional notion does not only derive from recalling ancestral behavior, but also from modern day global practices. In fact, many of the company’s culinary team hail from all over the world, with thoughtful thriftiness imbedded in their food cultures. In fact, some of the world’s greatest cuisines elevate leftovers to legendary dishes.
Mother nature allocates many resources to grow and nourish plants and animals. It is important to understand that throwing away a five ounce broccoli stem is not simply wasting the $2.49 per pound of cost, but also, the 5.4 gallons of water it took to grow that one broccoli head, not to mention the labor inputs to seed, grow, harvest, process and deliver the food nor the 30.7 gallons of diesel fuel it took to drive 200 miles.
The traditional hors d’oeuvre line is GP’s approach to fully respecting ingredients with added benefits of reduced food cost, increased creativity and a greater connection to what is on our plate.
Leftover ingredients at home? Avoid throwing them away and instead try your hand at Chef Mark Russell's Bread & Butter Pickle Canapé. Or, for a sweet treat, make Executive Pastry Chef Rob Valencia's Salvage Cookies.