Food Network Star’s Chef Palak Patel approaches life with a simple but powerful truth—
You don’t know until you try.
This motto pushed her from working at startups in media research to moonlighting as a personal chef in San Francisco. It’s what led her to culinary school and, later, a prestigious internship in the South of France. It’s what carried her through competing on Chopped, Food Network Star, and a winning round of Beat Bobby Flay (the woman can make a mean chicken curry).
Now, Chef Palak is based in New York creating sold-out Dinner Lab supper clubs and working with some of the biggest brands in the world. She also happens to be taking on a new challenge—eradicating food waste in New York City.
Food waste is an issue that shouldn’t exist.
“New York City has around 26,000 restaurants. There is enough food here for there never to be food insecurity and, yet, millions of people don’t get meals.” Chef Patel emphasizes. “We already have the food, it’s not that we don’t have it. We just need to rescue and redirect.”
Chef Patel recently became a board member of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a multi-city organization that helps the hungry by rescuing leftover food from restaurants and distributing it to homeless shelters.
“If you’re going to solve a food problem, you need people that deal with food every day.”
The goal is complete elimination.
For many organizations, the focus is on growth and longevity. For Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, the goal is to eliminate food waste to the point where their work is no longer necessary.
“This is a solvable problem,” Chef Patel stresses. “New York City is so dense with restaurants. Volunteers have networks of cars, taxis, subways. We can put a big dent into this issue.”
With so many similar worldwide organizations to choose from, it’s key to note why Chef Patel chose to join this particular board.
“I’ve really thought a lot about how I would like to give back. What’s the best use of my time? What is the value of my time? This is a small enough organization that I can contribute in a big way, as opposed to something like UNICEF where you’re one in a million. I want to see results and direct impact.”
Prior to joining Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, Chef Patel was an active member of Project Sunshine, where she raised over $100,000 of gala contributions. She is also involved with Food Bank NYC as well as No Kid Hungry.
The wildly popular chef’s prior experience and strong relationships with brands will be extremely valuable for this project. “My biggest focus is creating partnerships with large corporations and restaurant groups. There’s a limited amount of resources with a small organization, so we need to go with someone that can provide a consistent amount of food and help.”
There are benefits to partnering directly with smaller organizations.
There are a number of benefits to Rescuing Leftover Cuisine being a smaller organization. Unlike some food waste programs, they do not have a required minimum amount of food for restaurants to donate. Volunteers will come using all methods of transportation—instead of large trucks only—to pick up food. Anything from raw ingredients to cooked food that hasn’t been plated is eligible for donations.
Donations are tax deductible, which means restaurants stand to make a little money just by participating.
Restaurants and chefs aren’t the only ones who are able to engage in making the United States a waste-free country.
Here’s how you can help.
- Research food rescue options in your city (see locations for Rescuing Leftover Cuisine here) and make recommendations to:
- Your neighborhood restaurants, cafes, and small businesses
- Your workspace cafeteria
- When having a party (or attending one), be mindful of where the local soup kitchen is. Leftovers from the party can be donated.
- Learn to compost at home. If you live in an apartment building, request management to set up a compost bin.
- Utilize tips from top chefs on creative ways to reduce food waste at home.
How do you combat food waste in your daily environment? Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Questions on food waste? Share those too for expert responses.