A unique food tasting highlighting local innovation, focusing attention on the NYC Food Waste Fair

With solstice daylight and perfect weather on their side, the Foundation for New York's Strongest, the NYC Department of Sanitation and 16 local partners and donors produced Amuse-bouche, the official preview event for the NYC Food Waste Fair, on June 20th at the iconic Spring Street salt shed.

Chefs Joel Gamoran from the aptly-named tv show on cooking with food waste, "SCRAPS", the foremost authority on sustainable food and Slow Food "Snailblazer", Mary Cleaver, and Iron Chef Jehangir Mehta spoke to a crowd of roughly 150 food scene and sustainability influencers on the importance addressing food waste and the robust industry emerging to tackle the issue.

“It saves you money, it saves the planet, and it improves your cooking in so many different ways,” said Gamoran, noting the immediate business opportunities in food waste prevention, reduction and diversion.

DSNY Commissioner Garcia spoke about the Department’s actions to address food waste and catalyze a growing industry. "Where others see a problem, we see an opportunity," she said, noting that though New York City already has the largest organics program in the nation, they are going even bigger, bringing NYC Organics to all New Yorkers by 2018. Garcia highlighted the transforming landscape, evident not only through expanded regional organic waste processing infrastructure, but also the value of the end product, compost. "Our last compost give back shut down the highway, which tells me people really want it." Garcia noted that the residential side is only half of the equation, inviting businesses to take steps to achieve zero waste and pointing to the NYC Food Waste Fair as the perfect place to get started.

With over 50 exhibitors and more than 30 workshop, panel discussion and keynote speakers lined up, the Fair will offer a “soup-to-nuts” resource fair providing businesses with knowledge, tools and resources to build a waste prevention plan from scratch, or expand existing programs. The NYC Food Waste Fair will bring together experts and provide food waste solutions for local businesses. The Fair is geared to all businesses with food in their operations, including grocery store owners, street vendors, restaurant and fast food operators, manufacturers, wholesalers, and building and custodial management. More information on the Fair can be found at

The Foundation for New York's Strongest Executive Director, Elizabeth Balkan, introduced the amuse-bouche partners and their creations, noting that the evening’s small, complimentary appetizers offered the chance to ‘whet one’s appetite’ for the NYC Food Waste Fair. All of the evening’s creations – from yogurt whey-based margaritas to beer made from stale bread, vegetable skin veggie burgers and pickled watermelon – were made by reclaiming edible food that would otherwise have been discarded. Produced by some of New York’s top chefs, who have made these items standard fare in their repertoire, the food and drinks delivered on taste and proved that repurposed food is neither fad nor gimmick. Even the symbolism of the venue – a salt shed – was not lost: Amuse-bouche organizers gave a nod to salt and the age-old custom of using salt to preserve food in remarks and event design.

A lookbook, distributed to attendees along with the full menu for the evening, demonstrated the growing movement through photos – lush, evocative spreads showing how otherwise-wasted food can feed people in need, animals, and provide nutrients for soil in the form of compost and a fuel source for clean, renewable energy. Pictures of the processes used to create the Amuse-bouche tasting items, mounted on the salt shed concrete wall and keeping with the black and white theme, were both beautiful and modern, a stark contrast to photos of trash that might otherwise be associated with the Department of Sanitation.