Podcast: Matt Weingarten on making sustainability second nature for every chef

November 12, 2015

Change menus. Change lives.

That’s the tag line of Chefs Collaborative, a nonprofit dedicated to making sustainable practices second nature to every chef in America. The national organization believes chefs and food professionals are powerful change agents, and their choices have the power to transform much more than just food.

Matt Weingarten is the Board Chair of the Collaborative and my latest guest on freshwater Talk.

Phrases like farm-to-table, slow food and Community Supported Agriculture have become more common as individuals grow intrigued with the answers to questions like: Where did my food come from? What was its footprint? Who grew it?

During this episode, we talk about the sustainability principles he uses to guide his own sourcing and cooking, what he learned from his parent’s table, unlocking access to good food for more people, and of course the water footprint of the food we consume – and sometimes, don’t consume.

Inside the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year worldwide is 45 trillion gallons of water. This represents a staggering 24 percent of all water used for agriculture.

That’s not lost on Weingarten or the Chef’s Collaborative. The organization’s second principle states: “Good food begins with unpolluted air, land, and water, environmentally sustainable farming and fishing, and humane animal husbandry.”

Weingarten ensures less is wasted by practicing good kitchen management and using misshapen or nontraditional fruits and vegetables. He started the “Trash Fish” campaign to use underutilized fish species instead of the often overfished salmon and tuna.

“The European Parliament is passing laws not allowing supermarket chains and wholesalers to throw out produce that’s not perfect,” said Weingarten. “I think we need to get there, because that allows us to look at the true cost of food.”

He says the fact that the media has made chefs rock stars and role models has helped ensure trends are passed from chefs like him to consumers.

“We are looked upon and viewed as trusted leaders in our communities,” he said. “And that is what inspires me.”

A conversation about things that unite us all: Food and water.

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