Darina Allen shares her advice for a waste-free business

November 2020

Founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School, Darina Allen shares a few thoughts on how to prevent and reduce waste in the hospitality business.


     ‘The difference between profit and loss in a food business can easily be your attitude towards food waste.’


1. Working towards a ‘Zero Waste’ policy in your business, may take a fundamental change in mindset for all the team but quite quickly it becomes part of your ethos with staff entering into the spirit. There’s also a feel good factor – good for the environment and your business….


2. Watch food waste at all times, chefs need to keep an eye on what’s going into the bins. Plates should be empty coming from the dining room.

If not, ask yourself, WHY?

Are portions too large or perhaps it doesn’t taste good. Investigate and remedy…Ideally, plates should be empty. Good mangers need to see waste as ‘tearing up bank notes’. Every morsel of waste matters…


3. Head Chefs must be super conscientious themselves about minimising waste and lead the entire kitchen staff by example.


4. Scrutinise the menu, examine every single dish – are you using every scrap of each ingredient, from ‘nose to tail’ and ‘root to shoot’? Choose recipes that won’t result in waste.


5. Make stock with meat and fish bones, poultry carcasses and vegetable trimmings. This ought to be part of the work ethic. Use as a base for soups, broths and sauces.

Stock can be frozen in recycled plastic gallon cream containers.


6. Encourage waiting staff to listen to customers. If they ask for a small helping…one piece of toast for breakfast or one slice of bread with a soup – that is what they want, don’t give them two!


7. At Ballymaloe House, we serve smaller helpings and offer seconds.


8. Eliminate tinfoil all together – cover bowls with plates and plates with upturned bowls. Cover all gastronomes with lids.

Reduce the use of clingfilm to bare minimum by questioning the need each time – once again, this may involve breaking an engrained habit. It’s good to realise that plastic and plastic wrap only became widely available in the 1960’s.


9. All citrus peels can be dried out in a low oven. They make excellent firelighters and smell delicious (citrus peels don’t break down in the compost and hens won’t eat them either).


10. Coffee grinds can be composted or given to local gardeners to fertilise their roses – or used to grow mushrooms in-house.


11. Disposable chop sticks can be used for kindling.


12. Often though not always, fine dining restaurants are the most wasteful. Long tasting menus that only utilise the choicest of morsels can result in the trimmings being dumped.


13. Relearn and teach your team the almost ‘forgotten skill’ of using leftovers to make delicious new dishes. Every day here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, we show the students how to transform leftovers deliciously.


14. Leftover bread can be used in a myriad of ways to make other dishes such as bread and butter pudding, Apple Charlotte, bread crumbs, croutons, pangrattato, croutini, crostini…


15. Spring Restaurant in London offer a 3-course Scratch Menu every evening between 5.30pm-6.30pm for £25.00. Multi-award winning chef, Skye Gyngell uses all the ingredients usually overlooked such as misshapen fruit and veg, peelings from potatoes and other food normally considered ‘waste’ to create beautiful dishes that showcase the produce.


16. Link in with local farmers/vegetable growers to buy products and gluts in season, use all parts of the vegetable.

Make it a priority to pay them a fair price.

It’s possible to get 2 or 3 uses from many vegetables – e.g. beets – one can use the roots, stalks and young leaves in different ways. It’s a valuable exercise to educate yourself and your team by visiting the producers and learning about their process.


17. Keeping hens means all vegetarian scraps can go to the hens and come back as eggs a few days later. Guests will also be delighted and impressed to know that you use your own fresh eggs in your restaurant.


18. Alternatively, partner up with someone who has hens so they can take your food waste.


19. Seek out ways to partner with other producers and/or businesses in your locality that will benefit both parties.


20. Negotiate with suppliers around packaging. Ask your supplier to make deliveries plastic free, in cardboard boxes or wooden containers where possible in order to drive waste packaging back up the supply chain to change behaviour.

Savour Food would like to extend a word of thanks to Darina Allen for taking considerable time to put this together.