It’s tough to imagine anyone throwing out anything from Black Star Pastry, with its queues out the door for the buttery goodness within. But since bread is surprisingly one of the most wasted foods, we hit up one of Sydney’s most beloved bakeries to change the destiny of our next loaf. Christopher Thé lets us in on Black Star’s secrets, and what he does at home because he gives a toss.
Getting starry eyed at the bakery
The first thing that warms the cockles of our hearts is that Christopher is not alone in his passion for minimising food waste. “Any Chef worth their salt should be passionate about minimising waste,” Christopher says. “‘Nothing Wasted’ is like a code of honour for us. It’s as important to a Chef’s principles as not telling lies or pulling your weight in everyday life.”
One of the way these principles translates into practice at Black Star is turning food that doesn’t sell into other droolworthy treats. “Any sourdough bread that is not sold on the day is turned into things like toasties. Our left over croissants are soaked in custard and baked into bread and butter puddings. You wouldn’t know they were made from leftovers, they are so good.” Christopher also donates unsold food to OzHarvest fundraisers.
Black Star also go one important step further to stop waste from happening in the first place (although we’ll totally take their toasties any day of the week). Aside from being kick-arse at predicting how much they’ll sell, Christopher also knows how important it is for his team to know where their food comes from. “For our staff we organise visits to some of the farms where the vegetables, meat and eggs we use at Black Star are grown. The better appreciation our guys have of the care and attention it takes to grow and produce great food, the more likely they are to treat these products with respect and the less they waste. The grower’s story turns a commodity into someone’s lifeblood and passion.” Well shit. If you’ve never gotten teary-eyed about solving food waste, you have now.
For Christopher, this personal respect is carried all the way home. “We have a little vegetable garden so that our kids have a better appreciation of what it takes to grow food,” he says, adding “having guinea pigs at home are also a great way of using up veg scraps!”
On the secrets of leftover bread
If there’s one thing Christopher can help the rest of us bring home with his incredible bread, it’s to rethink leftover bread as a vehicle for more delicious things. His favourite ways to use breadcrumbs for example include schnitzels, crunchy toppings for vegetable bakes, crumbed fish and chips, and plum puddings. Home made breadcrumbs will take all these treats to the next level. “The store bought variety is much drier and doesn’t result in the ‘giving’ texture you get from using fresh bread crumbs.”
These “leftover” breadcrumbs are even planned into Black Star’s permanent menu. “A little secret I’ll let you in on is that the gentle texture of our sausage rolls is achieved by adding fresh bread crumbs to our sausage mix. When the crumbs mix with the wine and vegetables, the mince is much softer and less grainy on the palate.”
The bigger waste picture
Beyond food waste, Christopher is also looking at creative new solutions to packaging waste. And in true Youth Food Movement spirit, he’s focussing on positive solutions, rather than guilt and shame. “Our solution is to create the first carbon negative packaging – that is, offset more than what is added to the environment from its manufacture.” That would mean a strong emphasis on local, recycled sourcing for cardboard, and smart design that minimises offcuts. For now, they are already making postcards out of the box offcuts, but they’re on the look out for other waste-conscious businesses.
“It hasn’t been easy as there is a lot of financial momentum behind keeping conventional packaging as it is. I’m hoping that in the future customers will demand that their packaging is carbon negative and it will be industry standard for every business to show how it minimises waste.”
So how do we demand this change? “The only way to create large scale change is to start a movement.”
We couldn’t agree more.
So you know food waste is costing you, our farmers and the environment, but you’re sick of being spoon fed solutions that are good in theory, but don’t work when shit gets real.
Enter Youth Food Movement Australia’s SpoonLed series, where we’re inviting you to join us in giving food waste the flip. We’re gathering up the most exciting solutions that work with our social lives, from our community and leadership workshops in Sydney. Join the movement and eat by example with us!
Image: Black Star Pastry