If you’re frustrated by leftovers, cook less. Aspirational eating wastes food. Cook with intention. Eat with intention.
It has been estimated that each year, more than 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to more than 160 billion dollars worth of food thrown away each year. At the same time, in many parts of the United States, there is a crisis caused by people having limited access to healthy & affordable food options. The waste of food is not only a waste of money and bad for the environment, but it is also making vulnerable populations even more vulnerable.
Authority Magazine started a new series called “How Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies and Food Companies Are Helping To Eliminate Food Waste.” In this interview series, we are talking to leaders and principals of Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies, Food Companies, and any business or nonprofit that is helping to eliminate food waste, about the initiatives they are taking to eliminate or reduce food waste.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alicia Shevetone.
Alicia Shevetone is a dynamic culinary personality, cookbook author, and creator of Dink Cuisine, a food and entertainment organization that promotes cooking experiences across print, digital, social, and live media. Her newest cookbook, Vegetarian Ketogenic Cookbook for Beginners, showcases 75 savory low-carb, plant-based recipes that anyone can master to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was raised by a single mother who provided for me not only through hard work and perseverance, but also through public assistance. I am empathetic to those who face food insecurity, and am committed to sharing my platform with Authority Magazine and Thrive Global in an effort to educate readers about the connection between the reduction of food waste and portion control.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company or organization?
I think the pandemic has had an adverse effect on meal planning. I think people want dynamic lives. Carpe Diem never seemed to be more appropriate than it is now. This tells me that we need to sunset our “meal planning” habits and plan for today, not tomorrow. This is an interesting byproduct of sheltering in place.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Let’s just say that I had a brilliant idea for sour cream and onion mac and cheese. It was terrible.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I think great leaders listen more than they speak. Leadership cannot be just one thing. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of what great leadership IS. A good leader modifies their style to everyone they lead. A great leader is dynamic and also needs to be led.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Change starts with me. Telling people what they should do is cool. But I want to show people what can be done.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. What exactly are we talking about when we refer to food waste?
To me, food waste is something edible that could have been consumed, but wasn’t.
Can you help articulate a few of the main causes of food waste?
Food waste at the consumer level is often due to overcooking. The majority of home cooks follow recipes quite literally, because they don’t feel comfortable deviating from the chef/cookbook author’s game plan. While the average recipe is written for 4–6 servings, the average American household has 2.53 people (2020 US Census). Extra portions cooked are generally eaten in one sitting, causing weight gain. Those that aren’t eaten are relegated to the “meal planning” freezer.
Food waste at the commercial level is often due to over-ordering, a practice which is now illegal in some countries.
What are a few of the obstacles that companies and organizations face when it comes to distributing extra or excess food? What can be done to overcome those barriers?
Anecdotally, I suspect it’s because distributing extra or excess food is not easy, OR, that organizations who DO make it easy need help getting the message out that they will take care of the distribution.
Can you describe a few of the ways that you or your organization are helping to reduce food waste?
As a cookbook author and freelance writer, I am relentless in my quest to recalibrate the consumer mindset from one that associates abundance with happiness to one that associates peace with satiety. As a culinary mentor, I never miss an opportunity to honor the totality of ingredients, no matter how trivial.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help address the root of this problem?
- Bring awareness to the issue.
- Fund programs that reward solutions.
- Require food education through K12.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You may think an idea is too obvious. But it’s not. Verbalize your thoughts. They have value. Classically trained chefs are often pretentious. They struggle to relate to the public. I am the public. I can disagree with chefs, politicians, and anyone — and can respectfully speak my mind.
- Don’t cook for an army unless you’re cooking for The Army. Once I recalibrated my cooking habits to two servings (for me and my spouse), I lost 20 pounds and have maintained that loss.
- There is no “right way” to honor an ingredient. The freshest ideas are from people who garden, raise animals, and value life. When it’s personal, the stakes are higher.
- If you’re frustrated by leftovers, cook less. Aspirational eating wastes food. Cook with intention. Eat with intention.
- One person’s food scraps is another person’s sustenance. Be humble.
Are there other leaders or organizations who have done good work to address food waste? Can you tell us what they have done? What specifically impresses you about their work? Perhaps we can reach out to them to include them in this series.
Jose Andres seems to be doing a lot to help feed the world. I’d look into his org.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement centers around the calibration of recipes to the number of people in one’s household, and related topics that cover overeating due to overcooking. My premise is that the majority of home cooks follow recipes quite literally, because they don’t feel comfortable deviating from the chef/cookbook author’s game plan. While the average recipe is written for 4–6 servings, the average American household has 2.53 people (2020 US Census). Extra portions cooked are generally eaten in one sitting, causing weight gain. Those that aren’t eaten are relegated to the “meal planning” freezer.
While fitness experts and dieticians would have us believe that meal planning is the key to weight loss and health, most Americans are meal planning their way to the trash. Meal planning in and of itself is smart. But it’s only half of the equation. A meal plan is only as successful as the meal eating [in its intended serving size]. The reality is that most Americans have (and want!) dynamic lives, one in which plans can change in a heartbeat. The meatloaf you made 3 weeks ago and set on your counter to defrost is not likely to be eaten, despite your best intentions.
It’s time to eat within our means and right size our portions to the number of people in our household.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I’d like to sit down with Mario Batali and learn how his perspective has changed, if at all, since the #metoo movement.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I love to hear from people who love food. Instagram @DinkCuisine Twitter @DinkCuisine and my author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Alicia-Shevetone/e/B093YGC979/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.
Thank you SO much for the work you are doing to educate people about food waste. I wish you great success on this and other topics!