Equinox Co-Owner Working To Reduce Food Waste With Various Programs

Daniela Kelly May 21, 2019
 Equinox Co-Owner Working To Reduce Food Waste With Various Programs

Each time Ellen Kassoff saw food still on the table at her co-owned restaurant Equinox, she would wince about how much food the dishwashers were scraping into the drain.

She said if people were to stand there, watching what dishwashers were throwing out during the lunch and dinner services, they’d be shocked.

Kassoff said it’s not because of the chef – Todd Gray. After all, the 20-year-old restaurant is well-known in the D.C. community, serving multiple presidents and highly-prominent individuals. According to Kassoff, the problem stems from the acceptance of wasting food in today’s society.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that up to 40 percent of all food is wasted – or 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food. According to the agency, the restaurant industry is to blame for these high numbers.

According to organization ReFED, U.S. restaurants are producing up to 22 billion pounds of wasted food each year, costing about $25 billion.

Kassoff said that’s just $25 billion worth of food being thrown out.

She and Gray want to lower those numbers with the implementation of a zero-waste at Equinox. Dishes dinners, she said will not be cleaned over a trash can. Instead, they’ll be thrown out over a compost bin that gets sent to area farmers. She said food that was once thought to be trash, such as strawberry hulls or carrot peels, will somehow be included in the menu.

She said it’s not just an economic decision but an environmental one too. Kassoff said it’s a new way to look at cooking. She said she’s been trying for years to create a more eco-friendly restaurant with its ever-increasing plant-based foods.

Kassoff, Gray and other local chefs are hosting an interactive #NotWasted Earth Day dinner April 22 at the Culture House to highlight how trashed food can be made delicious once more. Some of the dishes include broccoli-stem stir fry and fish-bone tacos. A group of culinary experts will also be available to talk about how best to use trashed ingredients and incorporate them into menus.

According to Kassoff, she recently noticed a difference in how consumers and chefs deal with food waste and adopting it into their cooking. According to the 2015 wastED pop-up by Dan Barber, food waste can absolutely be incorporated into fine dining. For three weeks, the scrap-based experiment led to a reduction of carbon footprints in the kitchen.

The USDA said food waste is the third largest methane source in the U.S.

While this is a good start, Kassoff said, more has to be done. She said the world’s not going to change overnight, but holding events like the #NotWasted one each year will increase the awareness of food waste – not just for restaurant owners and chefs but diners too.


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