A group of Montreal bars have devised some innovative new ways to cut back on food waste — they’re boiling, dehydrating, and blending produce to within an inch of its life, to avoid having to throw anything out.
At many bars (and restaurants with cocktail programs), it’s fairly standard to juice fruit — limes, lemons, grapefruit — and maybe zest it, then throw the carcass straight into the compost or trash.
But at Chinatown bar Le Mal Nécessaire, St-Laurent beer bar Pamplemousse, swimming pool-themed bar Pelicano, and Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Tiradito, bar staff are able to get four or five products out of one type of fruit.
David Schmidt, who co-owns the three bars and is heavily involved with the restaurants, uses grapefruit as an example.
“We zest the grapefruit, juice it, boil the carcass for a cordial, then we dehydrate it and make a garnish with it, and we can blitz it in a blender to make a grapefruit-infused salt.”
That means almost nothing goes into the garbage compared to the old juice-and-throw approach.
“It’s a question of looking at what you just used and deciding if there’s still flavour in there. That half-juiced lime is still a beautiful thing,” explains Schmidt.
It’s not just grapefruit that gets so much squeezed out of it — the bars are trying to do it with all fruit they’re using. After juicing, limes are boiled to make what Schmidt calls “lime stock” or lime cordial; and coffee grounds are sourced from nearby café La Finca to create an orgeat-like syrup. At Tiradito, mango pits are boiled to create a syrup with coriander. Most of the products are then used to create new drinks — at Le Mal Nécessaire, it was just for monthly specials, but there’s now enough product for the bar to consider using the extra syrups and cordials in more and more items.
While not all four bars share the same ownership, close ties between them help — as a tiki bar, Le Mal Nécessaire goes through a lot of pineapple, and Pamplemousse picks up the pulp from that to make a cake (now a dessert bestseller).
The extra work to squeeze everything out of the fruit does require more labour, Schmidt notes, but it wasn’t forced on staff — Mal Nécessaire staff themselves devised the initiative, to cut back on food waste.
Schmidt notes that there was some concern that it could seem like the bars were using lesser parts of the fruit to make these products, and there were worries that this might bother customers — but that’s not the case, he says.
“There’s the idea that we’re selling stuff that wasn’t good anymore, which is absolutely not the case — the case is that we’re going a little more in depth in processing.”
“We don’t want people to think it’s dumpster diving. It’s not.”
And there’s a clear upside: the bars are ordering less fruit, and some drinks can be offered at lower prices due to lower produce costs.
After a couple of months of the project, Schmidt says there’s more than enough product for his bars, so he’s considering trying to export the concept, offering the lime stock and other products to other bars for use in their own drinks.
“I want to see what they can do with a little labour to avoid throwing stuff away.”