Wait! Before you toss out your bacon grease, turnip stems, or lopsided blueberries, Sur La Table national chef Joel Gamoran wants you to think twice. In a new TV series for FYI Network, Scraps, Gamoran travels the country and meets with chefs who are passionate about ending excessive food waste. The chefs cook together, explaining creative ways to use ingredients you might have otherwise sent to the dump, and then serve up a grand meal with the finds. And this week on the series, Gamoran stops by Atlanta to spend time with our resident food waste expert, Miller Union chef Steven Satterfield.
“If there was a ranking, Steven Satterfield might be No. 1 in the country when it comes to food waste,” Gamoran says of the Atlanta chef, whose 2015 cookbook Root to Leaf encourages readers to use every part of of the fruits and vegetables they buy. “He’s the face of it. He literally embodies the whole movement.”
In the 30-minute episode, airing Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on FYI Network, Gamoran and Satterfield pack up in a Volkswagen bus and head to Freedom Farmers Market to teach viewers how to scan for “seconds”—think peaches that were a little dinged by a hail storm or overripe strawberries—that might otherwise go unsold. Then, they head to Piedmont Park to whip up a vegetable-driven meal. (Keep an eye out for a brief cameo from our dining editor Julia Bainbridge, as well as local New York Times writer Kim Severson and Southern Soufflé blogger Erika Council.) Once the episode airs, Sur La Table will offer an online class that features Satterfield’s recipes.
“[Steven] just wants to keep getting better at what he has, and that is exactly the Scraps philosophy,” Gamoran says of Satterfield, “Don’t ask for more. Use what you have and make it better. He lives that.”
Gamoran’s interest in food waste was sparked partially by the amount of tossed food he’d find “overflowing” in wastebaskets while teaching Sur la Table classes. “As a chef, I was trained to use every last ingredient,” he says, “And it was just crazy to me that chefs do this and home cooks don’t.” He cites a few reasons why it’s important to think about saving scraps. “The average family wastes $1,500 a year by throwing away completely edible foodstuffs,” he says, also noting that organic matter sent to landfills can become trapped under plastic and emit harmful methane gas. Beyond that, scraps bring with them a new world of flavors and textures. “They just make your food taste so much better,” Gamoran says.
So what are some of the scraps you should consider keeping around? Gamoran is partial to garlic skins, which he says adds a crispy, sharp bite to any dish, and leek tops. (“They’re velvety soft when they cook down.”) Peach pits can be boiled in tea or soaked in simple syrup and give off an an almond flavor, he says, and in the Asheville episode of the show, he was surprised to see chef Katie Button cut the tiny roots off the end of a scallion and fry them into something “crispy and delicious.”
If you want to start bettering your own food waste habits but don’t know where to start, Gamoran recommends simply making your favorite recipe. Instead of throwing the scraps away, take a look at what accumulates and think about how they could be used instead of trashed. “Don’t try to cook scrappy off the bat,” he says, “See what you have left over first.”