Student Sustainability Committee: Integrating Sustainability Practices

Food sustainability in action

Happy spring from the Student Sustainability Committee! In the past few months, this committee has been looking at different ways to increase the CIA’s success in food sustainability and waste management. One way to make sustainability a more well-known and important part of students’ lives is making it a more intentional part of kitchen and bakeshop classes.

Introducing the sustainability steward

To gain more insight on how we would go about making sustainability more intentional, we spoke to CIA faculty members about how we could better educate fellow students. They told us how most chefs already practice waste reduction and other aspects of sustainability in their careers; their practices are just not always made obvious in classes. This is because, to the chefs, it is second nature to utilize as much of any product as they can in the most efficient way. So the Student Sustainability Committee has decided to focus our energy on (1) promoting the utilization of food trims and (2) reducing the amount of waste in kitchen classes through a new class position that is like the group leader position: the sustainability steward. We believe that by promoting these two campus initiatives, food sustainability will become a more obvious and conscious part of the students’ realities in both kitchens and bakeshops.

Understanding how CIA chefs practice good food utilization

To learn more about how we as students can go about doing this in CIA kitchen classes, we asked chefs who already utilize trim in their classrooms how they implement sustainability and food utilization into their curricula and menus. One CIA chef who not only utilizes food trims but also has a standard operating procedure (SOP) in his classroom for food waste management as well as a student sustainability steward position is Chef Brian Kaywork ’02, the PM chef in the American Bounty Restaurant. His sustainability SOP comes in many forms, to best teach his students how sustainability can be implemented in any kitchen. Chef Kaywork:

  • Focuses on waste reduction by forecasting weekly business and purchasing food products smartly.
  • Shows students how to utilize trim or leftover ingredients in family meals and specials.
  • Designs each menu so he can cross-utilize products.
  • Raises student awareness through the student sustainability steward position.
  • Teaches his students how to think creatively and use their trim in unique ways to enhance flavor, texture, etc.
  • Demonstrates how to be innovative in a kitchen setting through the sustainability steward position and the QR code for documenting waste.
CIA students practicing food sustainability

Food sustainability in action: American Bounty kitchen

The examples of sustainability that we observed when visiting Chef Kaywork’s kitchen were smart, classy, and effective. American Bounty currently uses leftover kale stems for pickles and rendered duck fat for biscuits on the restaurant’s charcuterie board. The students learn to use leftover vegetable scraps that they carbonize, turn into an ash salt meringue, and then use to coat winter squash. This imparts a rustic version of coal-charging vegetables that Chef Kaywork uses in the arugula salad on the menu. Both examples teach students how to utilize leftover products to enhance flavor, texture, and overall creativity in the kitchen. It also shows the students how to use products to save money; the above example of the pickled kale stems replaced pickled asparagus, which is typically more expensive during the winter.

Looking ahead: a new generation of sustainability-minded chefs

Not only do these examples of food utilization promote creativity and food sustainability, they also teach students how to make the most out of their foodstuffs to lower costs and expand their knowledge of food products. Using food that would normally be thrown out is not a new practice in the industry; it has been and still is practiced by many chefs on an everyday basis. However, this skill is not something as automatic to most of the new generation of chefs. CIA students have expressed that they wish they could learn more to reduce food waste or learn techniques of utilization that they can take with them after graduating. By bringing awareness to various aspects of sustainability and food utilization during kitchen classes, students will perhaps be more intentional with practicing good waste management and product utilization, which will enhance their careers down the road.

By Katy Cassady
Food Business Management Major
Student Government Association—Public Relations Office