Wasted: an Earth Week Screening and Panel

The evening of April 26, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Anthony
Bourdain’s film Wasted! The Story of Food Waste at the Elmwood Theater in celebration of Earth Week. Bourdain is a famous American chef and documentary creator, and wrote this movie in response to the immense amount of food waste he had witnessed as a chef.

Primarily narrated from the perspective of innovative chefs around the world, the film takes audiences on a journey through the many ways by which individuals, communities, and even countries are tackling food waste in their own unique way.

Overall, I found the solution-oriented approach to the film to be it’s most successful
feature. Bourdain included long features on celebrated chefs, including Dan Barber, Mario Batali, Massimo Bottura, and Danny Bowien, and how they turn what would normally be considered “undesirable” food into delicious meals for their restaurants. For example, Batali

Picture of Barber’s Cauliflower Steak from Food 52

interviewed a seafood chef who used by-catch (the unwanted fish that are caught in nets during commercial fishing) as his main ingredient as opposed to more commonly desired fish. In addition, chef Barber demonstrated his use of the other 60% of cauliflower plants that are usually not eaten in a delicious main course.

Beyond that, the film also explored family life and cooking, school garden projects, as well as national policies signed into action by other countries that have successfully eliminated a considerable amount of food waste. South Korea, for example, implemented a program in which citizens had to weigh and pay for their food waste that ended up eliminating almost all of their food waste. Perhaps most creative of all, Bourdain even interviewed a company that makes beer from stale bread. Ultimately, the film aims to inspire change even on an individual level, and this was amplified by the final scene in which easy, simple solutions- such as freezing extra food, or planning meals more carefully -that everybody can accomplish rolled down the screen. Films don’t often include such a direct call to action, and I found this refreshing, successful, and inspiring.

Bourdain’s sense of humor also elevated the success of the film. Take the start of the
movie- the first words out of Bourdain’s mouth when asked about his initial thoughts on the
project were, “I hated the whole idea of this movie, so serious..” Yet, here the film is, and
including humor allows for a distraction from the very depressing nature of the subject matter.

Food waste can seem an insurmountable problem, but infusing humor alleviates pressure from
audiences, and ultimately allowed a sense of hope to resonate. If Bourdain can hold onto his
sense of humor, so can we.

Following the screening, the audience at Elmwood had the chance to question three panelists: Kat Larrowe, Dana Frasz, and Anne-Marie Bonneau. Loarrowe works with the MPH Food Recovery Program, a company that collaborates with retailers to redistribute unsold food to food banks. Frasz founded and currently directs Food Shift Kitchen, a program that works within communities, businesses and governments to find solutions for food waste. Finally, Bonneau is a zero waste chef and blogger who aims to eliminate all waste in the kitchen. The panelists discussed their work and answered questions pertaining to how they got started, how they think food waste can best be addressed, and what inspires them.

I enjoyed hearing their perspectives, and especially appreciated their candidness in commenting on aspects of the movie that fell short. For example, Dana Frasz claimed the movie fell short in addressing consumption patterns, such as buying far more than is necessary, or a tendency to toss leftovers. As someone who possesses only basic knowledge on the issue, these constructive comments in particular helped highlight the complex nature of the problem.

In my opinion, the evening was full of learning and entertainment, and that seemed to be
the general attitude held by the other attendees based on their enthusiasm during the panel. I
thoroughly enjoyed myself, and can’t wait for Earth Week next year!

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