Chefs dream of an ideal kitchen in which there is zero waste. Every part of every ingredient is utilized in some fashion. This lowers food costs, reduces environmental strain, and forces them to get creative with those remainders and byproducts. It’s a boon for diners, too, by exposing them to palate-expanding flavors and creative textural components that elevate dishes in unexpected new ways.
In the last decade, the tip-to-tail movement has seen a huge resurgence, as chefs have turned offal and offcuts into menu stars. Now they’re taking the same approach to vegetables. Call it root to shoot. No longer are pea shells, tomato skins, or potato peels merely going into the stockpot, on the compost pile, or, worse yet, the trash. Now they’re playing key roles in some of the chefs’ most memorable creations. Here are six dishes and drinks for root to shoot dining.
Garrison, Washington, D.C.
Tomato skins are full of flavor and nutrient dense. But oftentimes they end up on the proverbial cutting room floor. Chef-owner Rob Weland is a longtime admirer of what our grandma used to call love apples. While heading up the kitchen at Poste years ago, he offered a 20-course, tomato-centric tasting menu. At his latest venture, he dries the skins of various heirloom varietals and uses them to garnish his colorful tomato salad.
Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, California
Dehydrated beets create the “soil” in executive chef Jeremy Fox’s signature Beets and Berries dish. Not wanting to throw out the resulting juice, he infuses it with rose geranium and turns it over to bar manager Aaron Ranf. Ranf devised the Beet Royale, a play on the Kir Royale with beet juice, prosecco, gin, and lemon. Waste reduction has never tasted so good. [Photo by Aaron Ranf]
Ribelle, Brookline, Massachusetts
Chefs Tim Maslow and Brandon Baltzley wouldn’t dream of tossing out a single scrap of tomato. The skin is dehydrated and ground into powder. The excess juice is transformed into smoked tomato vinegar. And the seeds are mixed with chia seeds to create mock caviar. The whole tomato is then compressed in the vinegar and speckled with the “caviar” and powder, as well as fresh cheese, burnt shishito oil, brined horseradish leaves, and fresh grated horseradish. [Photo by Brandon Baltzley]