Out of the Compost Bin, Onto the Plate
Another cooking technique that received attention was “root-to-stem” which involves utilizing every part of a vegetable or fruit that can be made edible in an effort to maximize yield and reduce waste.
Jehangir Mehta, chef/owner of New York-based restaurants Graffiti, Me and You, and Mehtaphor, demonstrated several of these techniques, creating an Eggplant-Filled Steamed Bun garnished with pickled cauliflower scraps and crispy chips made from the eggplant skin, and a Garlic Coconut Soup based on a stock made from a random assortment of vegetable trimmings, including broccoli stalks and tomato pulp. Mehta observed that the flavor of a stock made in this way will vary widely depending on the ingredients, and requires creative spicing and seasoning to create balance.
Mehta also displayed an infused vodka made with the skins and membranes of juiced oranges, but the most creative root-to-stem technique belonged to Maxime Bilet, co-author of The Modernist Cuisine series, who made shot glasses for serving his French Onion Essence from onion skins that were compressed into a glass shape and baked with an acrylic coating.
The most positive effect of dining casualization has been the vast increase in the availability of higher-quality foodservice meals throughout all of the commercial segments. If the conclusions reached at the conference regarding future directions hold true, dining consumers can expect to benefit from a growing commixture of global ingredients on the plate, further innovation of produce-based dishes beyond vegetarian and vegan, and a continued rise in the appreciation of traditional American cuisines.