WastED London: A first-hand experience of Dan Barber’s pop-up at Selfridges
The tricky part of preventing environmental issues is that it doesn’t seem to have an immediate effect. Whether we look after the planet in our day-to-day life – recycling, saving energy, avoiding driving whenever possible – the world just appears to be unchanged. “Why should I make an effort?” some would wonder. A week, a month, a year later, things still look the same: just apparently, because they don’t, it’s us getting used to them. People need to appreciate an immediate practical consequence, a clear causal link.
On average, we have two substantial meals a day: lunch and dinner. What we buy, cook or order has an environmental impact. There’s fish we can eat with a “clean conscience” and dairy farms that do not consider calves unwanted fallouts. Dan Barber’s WastED – a project he started in 2015 at the Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan – aims at showing practically how we can turn byproducts and leftovers into delicious food.
On the rooftop of Selfridges for five weeks, animal bones become charcoal; cod cheeks and collars a proper main; off-grade fruit and vegetable prime ingredients; fat dripping from dry-cured hams an alternative to butter.
There are so many dishes you can make using leftover latte milk from coffee shops, broken rice from the milling process, stale bread – mashed and repurposed into a new loaf – and even fish and chips scraps.
Everything at WastED – from the tables to the crockery and light shades – is either recycled or upcycled. For this very ambitious project Dan Barber’s team worked with local designers, farmers and purveyors. And to make things extra special, every day a guest chef proposes a one-off dish. On the opening day French legend Alain Ducasse – and his Dorchester executive chef Jean Philippe Blondet – proposed Beef Tips Consommé, Beetroot and Coffee.
The menu is à la carte and there are 21 options, all coming at £15 each. The portions are more than generous and with five of them (including the dessert) two people can easily fill their stomachs. The must-have dishes are Fish and Chips – where you’ll eat also dehydrated bones and skins – Salt Beef Ends Burrito – wrapped in a blood and bran crêpe – and the Spiralised Vegetable Cores – the byproduct of vegetable noodles.
Another must-try is the repurposed bread (it’s very educational too), which comes with three alternatives to butter: the Napoleonic Butter, what we call margarine, made with beef fat and skimmed milk as per original recipe (nowadays it’s made from vegetable oils), stands out.
WastED London is more than a chef’s pop-up, it’s a culturally challenging experience. Even though it’s fully booked, tables still free up on a daily basis, join the waiting list or give them a call.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
WastED London is at Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street London W1A 1AB, from 24th February until 2nd April 2017, to join the waiting list visit here and to check for cancellations call 020 7788 6210.
Watch our interview with Dan Barber on WastED here: