Shane Jordan is a vegetarian chef and education practitioner from Bristol, UK. Apart from his interest in recycling and environmental issues, Shane specializes in creating imaginative meals from surplus food. He also uses his culinary skills to cook meals for homeless shelters and raise money for charitable organizations.
His interest in food waste started when he was first introduced to the registered charity FoodCycle After learning about food waste issues, Shane started to take an interest in sustainability and environmental issues, becoming knowledgeable about the subject and working with environmental groups and collaborating with local councils.
Shane has a passion for education, working in schools and childcare settings and spreading the green message – he is dedicated to showing that dealing with environmental issues can be a fun and interesting experience.
He is the author of Food Waste Philosophy, a unique book that deals with food in a way no other books has. Disclosing the truth behind food, and how our food affects our lives, Shane documents his relationship with food from childhood to the present day. He discusses his thoughts on food waste, education, sustainabilit, and environmental issues.
Being passionate about food waste reduction ourselves, we were eager to join Shane to discuss his food waste philosophy. Thanks to Shane for taking the time to get into a deep conversation with us, which we hope you will enjoy as much as we did.
CozZo: In an interview for Tried and Supplied you share that a lot of cultures cooking is learned by sight and that people don’t measure out quantities, they just gauge by looking at it. We at CozZo believe that recipes, a 19th-century invention, are contributing to the food waste problem, as people become obsessed with strict measurements and leave a good part of the bought ingredients unutilized and are then unsure how to use them for other dishes.
Would you say that the traditional way of cooking takes a more wholesome approach to ingredients, therefore creating much less waste?
SJ: This is a very interesting question. I think recipes should be used strictly and loosely, I believe there’s room for both. For example, It can be used as a guide or followed strictly. What concerns me, what you highlighted, is ingredients not being fully utilized and those ingredients contributing to food waste.
I think all recipes should provide small tips on how to use ingredients for other meals, or recycling advice – using mini caddy bins, wormeries, composting or using apps to give away leftover ingredients. Recipes should evolve and provide as much information as possible about waste-reducing options, as well as signage in supermarkets too.
CozZo: What are the main concepts from more traditional ways of cooking we need to relearn in order to waste less?
SJ: My concepts would be the following:
Using all your edible ingredients, and using inedible ones including vegetable peelings for vegetable stock and boiling bones for broth. An unsung hero is Marguerite Patten, who was a home economist, food writer and broadcaster. Her philosophy was using leftover food and using every part.
Buying food from butchers and purchasing off-cuts such as beef cheeks, beef tongue, oxtails and shoulders. It may sound unappealing, but you are saving money and reducing the waste at butchers.
CozZo: Do you think that people do not cook enough these days? What is the biggest problem in your view – lack of skills, lack of time or lack of motivation?
SJ: I love these questions because I’d gotten into a debate about the word “cook” with people online. Depending on where you source your information, when you “cook” food, you prepare it to be eaten by heating it in a particular way, such as baking or boiling, and when food cooks, it is heated until it is ready to eat. Making beans on toast is technically cooking, even though it is seen as a very simplistic way of cooking – heating beans and toasting bread.
From a simplistic point of view, I believe we cook more. From a traditional view, I believe we buy less raw ingredients and are less willing to cook from scratch because of time restraints. Even if we had the time, many don’t have the confidence in cooking food that way and often go out or buy takeaway as an easier option.
CozZo: You talk a lot about creativity in cooking and it sounds great, but where does one begin? How do you get yourself started?
SJ: I think creativity is about ideas. What I do is look up a recipe, such as curry and rice, and find 5 other recipes to compare. By looking at 5 different alternatives it gives me ideas on ways to change it. For example, making a vegetable curry with turmeric or one with paprika, or using traditional white rice, broccoli rice or cauliflower rice.
CozZo: Can anybody become creative in the kitchen? What would you tell people who don’t have faith in their own abilities in the kitchen?
SJ: Yes, I believe anyone can be creative in the kitchen. If someone didn’t have faith in themselves, I would discuss their previous accomplishments in the kitchen and give an example of people building their confidence in the kitchen. I could even give an example of my lack of confidence when I started cooking.
CozZo: Have you worked in a kitchen that uses professional food management/stocking systems? Do you think they are useful/helpful in managing food waste? Would a similar tool be useful in adopting in a private home?
SJ: It’s been a while since I’ve worked in domestic kitchens in cafes and restaurants, but there wasn’t much food management. The main food management process was labeling cooked food (the date and time it was prepared) and color coding it so food with a red label was to be eaten immediately, and blue was meant for future use. It was kind of like stock rotation.
As for food cooked and food being thrown away, most of it went in the general waste bin. The problem is you have to pay additional costs to have your food waste collected, so many restaurants don’t do it. They see it as being “environmentally friend” eats into their overhead costs. But these days having a good reputation for recycling and being eco-friendly is a good thing.
I think labeling cooked food would be beneficial but might be seen as time-consuming. Using colored stickers could work but stock rotation is probably the easiest.
I think apps such as CozZo, tracking your food and notifying you when it has expired, as well as using stock rotation and learning the best ways to store your food could all contribute to reducing food waste in the home.
Also, I don’t think lessons in food spoilage isn’t taught as much in this generation as it was previously. Many of the post-World War generations grew up buying fresh food and ingredients that were weighed and not packaged as they are now. For example, knowing how to identify spoiled milk, cheese, and eggs by smell appearance and taste.
CozZo: Many people these days believe that restaurant cooking is superior to home cooking – what would you say to them?
SJ: That’s true, many people do believe that, but I believe it’s more to do with the decor of the restaurant and the presentation of the food on the plate than the actual taste. Home cooking tends to be larger and rustic (messier looking) than restaurants. Also, restaurants are convenient and encourage social interaction in a group setting.
CozZo: What are the main reasons people are creating so much waste at home? What should they do about it?
SJ: I think the main reason, based on previous data and conversations I hear online and in person, are the following:
Buying too much cheap food, not having a shopping list and “impulses” buying on an empty stomach.
Not storing their food properly: not using their freezer, sealing packages and using food rotation to bring food that needs to be eaten sooner to the front and food that needs to be eaten later at the back.
Lack of understanding: knowing the difference between “best before” and “use by” dates”.
Habits and social norms: habits mixed with social norms can lead to food being wasted. For example, you were taught to throw away potatoes that sprout and bananas that have black areas around it. If those habits were addressed and they knew that potatoes were fine to eat after spouting, as long as they haven’t shrunken and become soft, and soft bananas were still edible, they could make better decisions.
As for social norms, the common one would be that rubbish goes in the bin. This was a widely excepted thing, but now we know food and other items aren’t rubbish but resources that can be recycled or upcycled. If these social norms could be challenged then people would see things differently.
CozZo: We know you can create dishes using vegetable and fruit skins, can you describe how such a dish looks and tastes?
SJ: It looks and tastes like any other vegetable dish. You would never know I’m using vegetable and fruit skins unless I mentioned it. The key thing is using all edible parts of a vegetable or fruit, and that comes from knowledge and understanding. I hope one-day supermarkets will provide signage mentioning what’s edible and inedible, as well as recycling and waste-reducing tips.
CozZo: Can you share with our readers a tip on how to give leftovers a makeover?
SJ: I would suggest having a collection of spices (buying a spice rack) and creating new dishes by combining different flavors. YouTube has great tutorials on what herbs and spices blend well, but you can also experiment with flavours too.
CozZo: You do a lot of work in schools and children, in your observation, are children prone to waste food more than adults? Is it easier to change wasteful habits in children than in adults?
SJ: That’s a difficult question. You think children would be easier than adults, but it depends on the person you are speaking to and the incentive. Young children most often lead by example, so if their parent or caregiver wastes food they are likely to waste food too. For young children, incentives such as stickers or certificates. As for adults, not wasting food waste could be an incentive because it saves money or helps the environment.
CozZo: Do you think schools are paying enough attention to the problem of food waste? Do you think this is something they need to focus on more?
SJ: I think schools are doing their part, but I believe it’s easier to influence children at a younger age then it is as a teenager. Before we touch on schools, don’t neglect nurseries. There are more nurseries then schools and nurseries waste a lot of food. Unfortunately, there aren’t statistics on nurseries, no one has conducted any research on this subject yet, but from my experience, it is pretty bad.
Love Food Hate Waste do a lot of work with schools to support campaigns and provide information on ways to reduce food waste. Also, their website has printable tips for reducing food waste for adults and young people too.
The most challenging part is the food itself. Making school meal tastier, creating more choice and making food fit the multicultural society we live in is challenging. There are dietary issues, as well as monitoring allergies and intolerances and keeping children safe. Also, the time factor. Children having to eat quickly because there may not be enough seating for everyone, plus making sure the children don’t eat into their teaching time.
Lastly, meetings parents’ expectations, making sure their child is provided with a mixture of familiar, healthy and nutritious food is also a challenge.
CozZo: What is the best way to introduce the topic of food waste at home, especially now during school summer break and once we are back to school again?
SJ: I think food waste has to become a positive habit that everyone in the home does. The way to introduce this topic is to start small, putting fruit and vegetable skins in your food waste caddy bin, home composting bin or wormery. These are great ways of showing how food waste can be recycled, either naturally or by their local council. Another way is showing the people in your home that leftover edible food can be used for another meal, and showing people in your home which fruit and vegetables are edible and inedible.