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A conversation about food waste with Chef Jose Andres - Chef/Owner, ThinkFoodGroup

1. What motivated your personal interest in sustainability and food waste reduction?

I love going to the farmer’s markets around DC. It is so exciting to be able to see what the farmers are bringing each week. And the best kept secret at farmers’ markets is the imperfect produce! It is always cheaper than the spotless, perfect stuff. Maybe this imperfect, overripe tomato is not the most beautiful one, but it is definitely the juiciest! Food doesn’t have to look amazing to taste that way.  If we can focus more on taste and less on look, this is a great step forward. 

2. Can you share a story about a food waste hero who inspired you? 

Many years ago I was lucky enough to meet my friend Robert Egger, who started DC Central Kitchen and now has moved to open LA Kitchen. Robert was inspired by a food recovery idea he had – why not take the leftover food from banquets in the city, like the 1989 presidential inauguration, and feed many more people with it? For almost 30 years the organization has been receiving literally tons of imperfect fruits and vegetables from farmers and turning them into meals for those in need – it is an incredible story!

3. What change have you made personally to be more mindful?

In my home, my family and I have worked to make our little piece of land very productive to feed ourselves. With the help of Bennett Haynes, the Chief of Produce at Beefsteak, we have installed raised beds to grow tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and so much more, and we also installed a tower garden so we can grow herbs all year around. And a few years ago I started working with German Perillafrom George Mason University, who is an expert with honeybees. He helped me install some amazing beehives at my home, and I have learned so much about how bees are so important for our food system.Our bees make so much honey, we always have extra to give to friends!

4. What will it take for America to make food waste a priority?

We have so much to focus on when it comes to feeding our country, and as soon as we can start to understand that we have a huge opportunity with the food that people are throwing away, we will be able to move forward. We need to be working on smart solutions to really think about innovative ways to combat hunger. How can we take leftover foods, imperfect produce, food that won’t ever make it to the grocery store – and make it into nutritious, tasty food for those in need? We need to be talking about this more!

5. What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?

We can all be more thoughtful with how to cook leftover food … do not throw away any scraps of food on your plates – make them your lunch tomorrow! When I make my daughters’ lunches, I like to pack them leftovers rather than sandwiches ... everyone wants to trade with them at school! Some of my favorite dishes come from yesterday’s meals – like migasand my favorite sopade ajothat both use day-old bread. With dishes like this, there is no need to throw anything away!