OzHarvest launches food waste cafe in Sydney

Sydney chef Travis Harvey in his pop-up cafe, harvested.
Sydney chef Travis Harvey in his pop-up cafe, harvested. 

Would you eat a meal made of ingredients that supermarkets and restaurants have thrown away? If not, a new cafe in Sydney hopes to change your mind, using only ingredients destined for landfill.

Pyrmont pop-up, harvested, will open its doors every Tuesday and Wednesday from May 12 in a donated space on Harris Street.

The cafe is a project of OzHarvest, the national charity that rescues hundreds of thousands of kilograms of "waste" food each month and turns it into meals for vulnerable people.

Pickled baby cucumbers will be on the menu.
Pickled baby cucumbers will be on the menu. 

This is the first chance the public will get to sample the "rescued" food, turned gourmet by Travis Harvey (former head of Rozelle's The Essential Ingredient cooking school), who will use his knowledge of Mexican, Spanish, Turkish and regional Italian cuisine.

Harvey embraced the idea of sustainable food seven years ago, when he was staying at a coffee farm in Guatemala and saw how the farmers used every part of what they grew or put it back in the ground. 

"It really changed the way I approach food and food waste. The no-waste ethos is very strong for me," Harvey says.

The menu at harvested will have a choice of seven or eight dishes, all designed to be shared, on a menu that changes weekly. They will be built on a base of grains, adding proteins, fruit and vegetables depending on what discarded food is donated to OzHarvest through the week.

In the three months they have been donated the space for, every item of food in the kitchen, including oils, meats, herbs and garnishes, will be "rescued". They will aim to use every part of their ingredients, using lemon seeds to make glazes and fried apple peels as a garnish, but the small amount left over will be used to make compost.

The kitchen already has a store of condiments, preserves and pickles Harvey has been preparing for the last few weeks. Pickled baby cucumbers, beetroot relish and dried berries will be mixed with marinated and slow-roasted legs of lamb, handmade labneh, flat bread, olive oil, porcini mushrooms, spelt and pearl barley, and broad beans for the opening service.

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Despite popular misconception, most of the food the restaurant will use isn't damaged or going out of date, Harvey says. It was simply going to be thrown away to make way for newer stock.

"So much of it is perfect, and I think that's what we're really trying to show," he says. "We do think of rescued food as being stuff that's blemished, but a lot of it is oversupply."

With no practice service before its opening, Tuesday will see Harvey, one apprentice chef and five or six volunteers staff the kitchen together for the first time. Meals on the first day will be free in exchange for a picture posted to social media with the hashtag #mealforameal, but after that a meal will cost $15.

Sustainability and cutting down on food waste are concepts gaining momentum around the world. Later this year, the first restaurant in a new sustainable fast food chain, Loco'l, will open in San Francisco, using less attractive ingredients and a similar approach to harvested by using the whole ingredient, including vegetable skin and ends.

Harvey hopes the cafe will show how delicious discarded food can be - and inspire people to embrace the concept in their own kitchen.

56 Harris Street, Pyrmont. 1800 108 006. Lunch only, every Tuesday and Wednesday from 11.30am -2.30pm, until the end of July. No bookings.