Everyone wants premium ingredients—the sweetest peppers, the finest wine, the most select cuts. Many chefs only opt for the ideal in their menus, leaving unwanted scraps discarded and unused. Few chefs buy ugly vegetables like the guys behind Sunday in Brooklyn. Especially those with their sort of experience.
Owners Adam Landsman, Todd Enany, and Jaime Young all came from fine-dining backgrounds but shunned the upper-tier atmosphere, opting for their environmentally friendly, yet undeniably fine dining enterprise. They’ve made a name for themselves by making more with less and not just as a gimmick. They truly want to do what they love without leaving the planet in shambles.
“We left our positions elsewhere to be in a place where our voices mattered more,” relayed the restaurant’s Producer, Mark Berger. “We've seen things work and things not work. We wanted to use our practical experience for our own business. We want to make life better. That starts with doing the right thing with what we use and don't use. It ends with giving our guests an incredible experience they can also be proud to be a part of.”
So, just how do you create an exciting and exceptional menu without destroying the world around you? Here are a few tips from these Brooklyn entrepreneurs:
Pickled and fermented foods have a longer shelf life. The guys at Sunday end up making a lot of pickles and cured things that can be used later than their seasons.
Build relationships with your farmers, fishmongers, and foragers. Talk to them daily about what’s changing and what's overstocked. Reducing their waste will reduce your costs, too.
Cross-utilize ingredients in many dishes and meal periods so you don't rely on one dish to sell one ingredient. Stars of one dish can make an excellent supporting cast in another.
Use hearty things that can hold up to some sort of preservation—micro greens and dainty lettuces won't work, they go bad too quickly. Instead, use ingredients like mustard greens that last longer.
Connect with other businesses and vendors that share the same values. When Sunday’s trash carter wasn’t going to compost, they got a recommendation for a separate composter. The same friends turned them on to a bunch of other vendors that also hoped to reduce waste.
Think about what you’ll naturally have. At Sunday, they cook with the wood oven and naturally have charcoal remnants, so they use it to make charcoal oil. There’s often opportunity where you least expect it.
Keep the relationship strong with the beverage program. Food and drink aren’t at odds with each other and can often be cross-utilized. E.g.: Seconds tomatoes in that Bloody Mary.
Remember that not all guests like odds and ends. A fish head isn't going to win over everyone. Plan accordingly and balance your experimentation with practicality.
Rely on your whole team to come up with ideas on how to use items. Line cooks might think a bit differently than your saucier. If you don’t want to waste food, don’t waste ideas either.
If your restaurant aims to be sustainable, and your vendors and partners are sustainable, then you should encourage your patrons to be as well. It’s not that hard to find biodegradable to-go boxes.