Inspired by the ethos of food-rescue organisation Kaibosh, chef Kelda Hains looked to the past to champion unloved ingredients and showcase clever waste-minimising techniques at her All Taste, No Waste dinner during Visa Wellington On a Plate.
Ever glanced at those supermarket bags of pre-cut broccoli florets and wondered what happens to the stalks? Kelda Hains has.
The Wellington chef did more than wonder, actually – she tracked down Countdown’s supplier, got hold of some of the unwanted stalks and fermented them in brine, which she then made into a tzatziki to use in a dish for the All Taste, No Waste event held during Visa Wellington On a Plate.
Fermentation, of course, is a valuable tool in preventing waste, used since ancient times as a way to prolong the life of various ingredients, as well as adding an extra layer of flavour. It was just one of the methods Hains used to showcase no-waste cooking and raise awareness and funds for the work of food-rescue organisation Kaibosh.
Hains, whose Aro Street restaurant Rita is named after her grandmother, says she’s been thinking a lot about “traditional food ways, and all the clues they give us to finding a way through what we’re facing now” – meaning the myriad interconnected problems to which our modern food system has given rise.
This thought process was evident throughout the five courses Hains served over three nights at All Taste, No Waste, from a dish of raw kahawai and rhubarb inspired by a traditional English combination that pairs oily mackerel with the tart pink vegetable, to a chicken and leek broth with dumplings made from leftover bread.
Kaibosh, which was New Zealand’s first dedicated food-rescue organisation when it launched in 2008, has been running All Taste, No Waste events at Visa Wellington On a Plate for the past five years, recruiting a different guest chef each year to create a menu inspired by its ethos.
The full price of each All Taste, No Waste ticket goes to Kaibosh (there’s also an option to make a donation to the organisation with ticket purchases to every other Visa WOAP event). For the past three years, All Taste, No Waste has been held at Weltec’s Bistro 52, with cookery and food and beverage students helping the chef in the kitchen and working front of house.
The organisation, which has bases in Wellington city and Lower Hutt, with plans to expand to Kāpiti in the near future, collects up to 30,000kg of food that would otherwise go to waste monthly, mainly from supermarkets but also farmers’ markets and companies like My Food Bag. Volunteers sort the food, mostly fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy, which is then distributed to more than 75 charities and community groups around the region.
When general manager Matt Dagger approached Hains about the All Taste, No Waste event earlier in the year, she knew Kaibosh existed but was not prepared for the emotional impact being involved would have. “When I went down to see what they did, I thought, ‘This is incredibly meaningful,” she recalls.
“Kelda spent the last three or four months getting to know our organisation, our values, why we do what we do and how everything works,” says Dagger. “She embedded herself with the Kaibosh sorting teams, and when we started putting this event together she was really keen to try and capture the spirit of the organisation.”
Kaibosh is not just about food waste minimisation, says Dagger – food dignity is equally important. “If people are struggling and everything’s rough, you want to make sure the food they’re getting is as good as possible.”
That was an aspect that particularly appealed to Hains. “It’s really easy to approach the conversation from just a waste reduction point of view, because that’s the restaurant framework. But in restaurants we are operating in this world of plenty, so it’s really good to be reminded of the amazing purpose behind Kaibosh, which is feeding people who need good-quality food and the food justice aspect of it, which was incredibly emotional for me.”
In addition to using traditional waste-minimising techniques in her five courses, Hains championed unloved ingredients – snapper wings were turned into rillettes and served with radishes; nettles and carrot tops were pureed with watercress and added to the chicken broth mentioned earlier.
It’s a tough time of year for growers, and Hains takes a “buy what they have, when they have it” attitude, she says. For All Taste, No Waste, this meant the tender stems and leaves of tick beans – a variety of broad bean some growers plant as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop – that were served as tempura, and absolutely delicious.
“This is a really lean time for a lot of our growers so if we can help them by using those incidental kind of crops, I think it’s really good. I want to make sure I support my local food economy by buying everything I can from the growers who are doing a good job,” says Hains.
For the main course, Hains sourced tahr, a Himalayan goat-like species introduced to New Zealand that threatens native plants, from wild food supply company Awatoru. “Everyone wants the strip loin, but that’s only 4% of the whole animal carcass,” says Hains. For that reason, she used tahr shoulder to make kibbeh (a Middle Eastern croquette-esque dish made with bulghur wheat), and served a very small amount of loin with them, along with the aforementioned broccoli stalk tzatziki. “I was trying to represent how we should be eating – the idea was to have the meat more as a garnish.”
Dessert was just as intriguing: a “kiwifruit sherbet bombe” featuring a banana cake base (a nod to the huge popularity of the fruit in New Zealand, and how many of them end up at Kaibosh) topped with a sorbet made from kiwifruit that had gone soft. That was covered with Italian meringue and a vinegar syrup made from a batch of beer from Garage Project’s Wild Workshop, the site dedicated to notoriously risky spontaneously fermented beers, which hadn’t worked out.
The bombe came to the tables as a whole dish, with diners serving each other portions. “I wanted people to share the dessert and I wanted it to be a little bit difficult to share so you had to interact with each other,” Hains explains. “For me, the most powerful thing about Kaibosh is this notion of sharing and the notion of providing for other people. I wanted to get a little touch of that into the meal.”
This content was created in paid partnership with Visa Wellington On a Plate. Learn more about our partnerships here.
Feast your senses this August in a celebration of all things food and beverage. Visa Wellington On a Plate runs from 1-31 August 2019 at venues across the Wellington region.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.