Starting in mid-March, Blue Hill restaurant in the Village is going on hiatus for a month, and in its place chef/owner Dan Barber and his brother David and sister-in-law Laureen will open a food waste-centric pop-up called wasteED. The menu will get a complete overhaul, with a steady selection of small plates by the Blue Hill crew and daily specials from a rotating cast of major chefs including Mario Batali, Dominique Crenn, Daniel Humm, and Alain Ducasse.
The goal here, Barber says, is multifaceted. At its most basic, it's a celebration of unheralded ingredients and the waste that chefs deal with in kitchens on a regular basis. It's about using the carrot tops, the pickle butts, the offal, the fish bones, the kale ribs. Skilled chefs around the world for thousands of years have perfected working with and manipulating seemingly unusable ingredients, and Barber thinks this is the time to shed a light on those skills.
"I want to use a chef's creativity and technique to transform ingredients that we don't think of as edible and delicious and turn them into something that's coveted," he told Eater yesterday, "It's not just about ugly vegetables and offal cuts. I think our thinking is to take it beyond to include things we wouldn't normally look at."
Turning ingredients that we don't think of as edible into something that's coveted
In the experiment, Barber hopes to explore inefficiencies at every part of the food chain from the field to the processor to the vendor. He mentioned, for example, laying hens at his farm in Massachusetts, that are fed only scraps taken from diners' plates at nearby Great Barrington restaurants. Or pigs a colleague is raising using only the skimmed milk that's a byproduct of making butter. For this pop-up they'll be using spent grain from local distilleries, cocoa beans from the Mast Brothers, pasta scraps from Rafetto's, and vegetable pulp from juice shops, among other ingredients.
"If this is done right [it will] broadcast a message about how chefs, and restaurants in particular, can bring about a cultural shift in how we think about producing enough food to feed a growing population," says Barber.
Planned dishes include new creations — one inspiration for a dish comes from a purveyor with a killer recipe for dog food — as well as homages to classic dishes like Thomas Keller's carrot top puree.
The pop-up will take place for from March 13 - 31 but could be extended a little longer if it proves popular. A design firm devoted to working with waste and byproducts will give the dining room a complete overhaul so the space feels wholly new. After it's over, Blue Hill will return to business as usual.
Check back later for the full menu and roster of vendors and guest chefs, including Alex Raij, Claudia Flemming, Danny Bowien, and more.