Feeding the 5,000: Edinburgh event to highlight food waste
Feeding up to 5,000 people in a day is no easy task but a team of chefs and volunteers are hoping to do just that in Edinburgh on Saturday to highlight the issue of food waste.
They will be creating free meals using ingredients which might otherwise not have been used.
Scottish households throw away 566,000 tonnes of food waste every year, according to Zero Waste Scotland.
In the small kitchen of an Edinburgh restaurant preparations are under way for lunchtime service. Freshly baked sourdough bread comes out of the oven, meanwhile the chef is examining lobsters, mussels and potatoes from their allotment.
"I dug these up on Sunday," says Neil Forbes, chef director at Café St Honore.
"These are a variety called pink fir apple potatoes, which are just sensational, look how nutty and knobbly they look. Incredible."
He is passionate about kitchen traditions, but on Saturday he will be swapping his own kitchen for a marquee as he oversees the cooking by a team of other chefs of up to 5,000 meals. He believes the issue of food waste is crucial.
"You have to put your business hat on sometimes and think well if I could sell that and there's nothing wrong with it, why would I throw that away if it's perfectly edible and good to eat.
"It may not be attractive to look at, it may be a wonky carrot or a misshapen courgette but there's nothing wrong with it taste-wise, so by the time you've cut it up or made it into a pot of soup or a stew, then surely it's just madness to throw it away."
The most wasted foods are fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, bread and cakes, with the average Scottish household throwing out something like £430 worth of food a year
"In Scotland we throw away 566,000 tonnes of food waste every year from our homes, that's the equivalent of 38,000 double-decker buses," says Ylva Haglund of Zero Waste Scotland.
"Three quarters of this could have been avoided if we managed our food a little bit better, for example using it up in time or not over-cooking and ending up throwing out food afterwards."
But is that message getting through?
"I'm pretty good at using what I buy," says one woman shopper in the centre of Edinburgh.
Another woman, hurrying along with bags under her arms, admits she is rather less efficient: "Vegetables that I haven't got through, stuff that's in the fridge, after a week, you just clear it all out.
"I should really watch what I buy."
The vegetables being used to cook up Saturday's meals are mainly ones which might not meet the specifications for retail in supermarkets and could go to other parts of the food chain or even cattle feed.
The Scottish Retail Consortium says the major grocery retailers "have been at the forefront of ensuring that EU fruit and vegetable marketing regulations were relaxed so that the strict marketing conditions on 26 types of fruit and vegetables were loosened so that more 'wonky' fruit and vegetables could be sold in dedicated value ranges.
"They are also working with farmers to make more of the crop by, for example, using 'wonkier' fruit and vegetables in basic lines or using it in processed products."
It also says it is working to reach targets "agreed with the Scottish government to reduce food waste in the supply chain and help consumers reduce household waste."
Saturday's event, organised by the group, Edible Edinburgh is also trying to touch on wider issues of food sustainability in the city and the public will be asked for their views on developing a strategy to advance that.
"The amount of food that we waste in the north, the developed world is more than the amount of food people eat in sub-Saharan Africa," says Pete Ritchie, director of the group Nourish Scotland. He is also a member of the Edible Edinburgh project.
"It's pretty poor, it shows how disconnected we've become from the value of food."
One of the dishes on offer on Saturday will be a vegetable curry, cooked with a glut of coriander and tomato puree nearing its use by date.
"I'm hoping we will have created discussion and debate," says Charlie Cornelius, the chef-proprietor at Iglu restaurant in Edinburgh. He will be in charge of that curry kitchen which could turn out about 830 meals.
"That people will have had fun coming out, coming together through food, creating community through food. There's nothing more important than that."