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June 28, 2017

Helping Restaurant Kitchens Reach Zero Food Waste

Latest posts by Atlantic Research Team (see all)

In the homey dining room at West Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen, servers glide between tables offering refills on coffee while line cooks work in the open kitchen, frying chicken in front of a row of countertop seats. A neighborhood favorite, the restaurant’s warm atmosphere combines owner and chef Tanya Holland’s French culinary training with traditional down-home soul food to create dishes like BBQ shrimp and grits, beignets, and buttermilk fried chicken served with a cornmeal waffle.

food waste

Though nothing in Brown Sugar Kitchen’s dining room or menu shows off the restaurant’s environmental credentials, Holland has long used sustainable practices, including ordering from local vendors and composting. Now it is pursuing a new, even more ambitious goal: a zero waste kitchen.

Organized by Blue Cart, a startup that uses technology to streamline the ordering process for restaurants, the Zero Waste Kitchen initiative worked with three chefs from around the country over the course of two months this spring to promote sustainability and reduce wasted food.

Alongside Chef Tim Ma (of Kyirisan in Washington, D.C.) and Chef Jehangir Mehta (of Graffiti Earth in New York), Holland spent two months tracking her food waste and identifying different actions—from composting to team culture, products, and sourcing—that can reduce her restaurant’s environmental footprint.

By highlighting the efforts of these three chefs, featuring their conversations, and sharing their journey to achieve zero waste operations, Blue Cart is hoping to educate chefs across the country about the cost—both monetary and environmental—of food waste. It also hopes to share practical tips for any chefs who want to incorporate more sustainable practices into their kitchens

Zero waste efforts address a serious issue that affects both commercial and home cooks; some 50 percent of all produce in the United States ends up in the trash can. Not only does the lost sustenance fill up landfills, accounting for 20 percent of our annual municipal landfill content, it also costs a family of four an average of $1,500 each year.


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