Over lunch at his Carlton North eatery, Green Park Dining, Yume ambassador Jesse Gerner spills the beans on reducing waste, community spirit and what you can do at home.
Sarah Gamboni: Jesse, you’re a busy man, with three restaurants and three young sons – why have you decided to work with The Yume App?
Jesse Gerner (JG): I’ve teamed up with Founder, Katy Barfield and Chef, Matt Wilkinson to host a bunch of lunches, dinners and talks about food waste, and the facts and figures have blown me away. According to Katy, world food wastage is around 50 per cent, or more than 1 billion tonnes per year. In Australia, we waste about 4.45 million tonnes a year, and restaurants are some of the worst offenders, accounting for one third of that. On the other side, 2 million Australians struggle to feed themselves, so something isn’t adding up.
SG: What do you like about The Yume App?
JG: As a restaurant owner, what really appeals to me is the ability to donate excess food. I can use the app to have leftover bread, soups and braises collected and delivered to homeless shelters and food programs. That’s what I think is groundbreaking for Yume: it has a great scalability that allows smaller organisations to get involved. Most of the larger food charities require produce by the pallet-load, but with Yume we can donate surplus food on a daily basis, and it protects us via the Good Samaritans Act.
SG: How do you tackle food waste at Green Park Dining?
JG: All of our organic kitchen waste goes into the composter, which is sold as fertiliser. Locals come by and pick up a bag for a gold coin donation, and we give that money to the Adventure Playground in Fitzroy, a place where refugee kids can play, garden and grow vegies in a relaxed setting. We’ve also built herb boxes out the front of the restaurant – not only do they supply the kitchen with fresh herbs, but we also encourage people to come and help themselves. All too often we buy a huge bunch of herbs at the supermarket when we only need a handful, and the rest goes to waste. This way, people can just take what they need.
SG: And what about Bomba and Anada?
JG: One key way we manage waste at the restaurants is by offering a feasting menu – it’s left up to us in the kitchen to decide what people will eat, so we have much greater control over ordering and stock rotation. We like to use secondary cuts of meat, such as beef cheek, pork jowl and neck, pig’s face terrine, tongue and bonemarrow. All of those cuts are pretty mainstream these days, and I find that our customers are willing to try it as long as it’s presented well. One of the biggest sellers at Bomba is the montadito with morcilla (blood sausage). I feel that people are more willing to go down the offal route if it’s tapas style, rather than one large dish. We also make our own sausages and pickles, which is great for using up any offcuts.
SG: How do you source your fresh fruit and vegetables?
JG: We try to source from local, small-scale suppliers, and we work with Spade & Barrow, which was also founded by Katy Barfield. It’s a great social enterprise that distributes fruits and vegetables to restaurants that might otherwise be rejected by retailers, as they’re deemed ‘imperfect’. The proceeds go back to Victorian farmers, helping with mental health and financial issues. The thing I like about it is it’s real food – it’s not graded, so it can be a bit irregular in appearance, but it’s really tasty and delicious – and it gives us more to work with in the kitchen as we have to be creative. And this is produce that would otherwise be thrown out.
SG: On a smaller scale, how can we reduce food waste at home?
JG: A lot of that comes down to forward-planning. If you map out the meals you’re going to have each week, you can shop accordingly – and not end up with all of those half-used herbs! I’m a big believer in freezing leftovers, and of having a couple of go-to dishes to use up vegetables that are getting a bit tired, such as pastas and soups. A jaffle iron is great if you’ve got kids, as you can fill them with cheese, roasted vegies, all sorts of things.
SG: You’ve talked about selling fertiliser and sharing herbs with locals – in what other ways do you get involved at a grassroots level?
JG: My wife, Vanessa, and I are lucky that we live in such a great community in Northcote. Our neighbours share their lemons, and swap vegies and eggs. We’ve been in the ‘Pickle Club’ for six years now. It’s a group of 15 like-minded people who meet up in Edinburgh Gardens to drink beer and swap pickles. At the end of the day, we all walk away with a range of different things, such as chilli oil, chutneys and harissa.
Jesse Gerner is the owner and chef at Anada, Bomba and Green Park Dining. He lives in Northcote with his wife, Vanessa, and three sons. The Yume App connects food outlets with diners and food charities in order to reduce waste and help the community.