Visiting The ‘Zero Waste Bar’ Where Kitchen Scraps Turn Into Cocktails

Historically, restaurants have used a model of production called “cradle-to-grave.” The term refers to the linear process that takes ingredients from their source to the landfill, with only a portion being consumed. This is a problem. Restaurants are inherently wasteful and food waste is terrible for the planet — landfills release 25 percent of all methane (a greenhouse gas, contributing to global warming) into the atmosphere and they often leak these gasses into groundwater.

To fight excess waste, chefs have taken up a zero waste approach by following a cradle-to-cradle loop model, recycling ingredients into new products again and again, leading to the absence of waste. Now, one innovative bar program is joining the movement.

Providence — one of the only two-star Michelin restaurants in LA — is infamous for its commitment to sustainable practices (and fucking amazing food). And, that commitment now extends to their bar, where manager Kim Stodel innovates daily to give ingredients second and third lives. When Stodel took over his position, he didn’t set out to be the star of the establishment. Instead, he made an effort to follow the lead of the Providence kitchen, to become part of their ecosystem.

“Chefs and cooks are trained to try and utilize every single item,” Stodel points out. “Bartenders… not so much.”

As in the kitchen, the Providence bar is economical, mindful of waste, and wildly creative with re-use. They are conservationists, and those guidelines gave Stodel finite boundaries to play in. Often, this means making garnishes, infusions, oils, sugars, and syrups from kitchen scraps. For example, he infuses rum with ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves (the recipe is in the video), and then, he uses these ingredients to make a fruit roll-up-looking garnish. It sounds tasty, and it should — because this bar makes delicious drinks.

It’s the ultimate win-win. You can have a crave-worthy cocktail and know that you aren’t contributing to waste.