Remember the stereotypically lavish chef of kitchen lore who would roast an olive inside a little bird inside a bigger bird on up to an ostrich, and then throw away everything but the olive? That guy wouldn't last too long in Bay Area kitchens.
Driven both by thrift and the desire to keep the planet cleaner, chefs are finding new uses for items that once would have been flung in the garbage, recycling and reusing just about everything but the squeak.
"Everything we use has value. Someone harvested it, someone grew it, someone cared about it," says Russell Moore, chef-owner of Camino in Oakland.
At Camino, Moore reuses fruit cores to infuse brandy, candies citrus peel for garnishes and sautes the outer leaves of greens with oil and olives to make herb jam for the cheese board.
Water is served in old gin bottles; wood for the dining room fireplace comes from orchard prunings; and the restaurant's seats are reused church chairs and pews. Leftover wine is turned into vinegar.
At San Francisco's Zuni Cafe, chef and co-owner Gilbert Pilgram also makes vinegar from leftover wine. And the kitchen sees the appeal of peelings, too. Pea shells flavor fish stocks, and in the summer, the liquid generated by making tomato concasse (peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes) is used to thin the organic tomato juice for Bloody Marys. In winter, the juice drained from organic canned tomatoes is used in pizza sauce.
Sometimes reducing waste is about convenience as much as conscience.
Read about more ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle here.