This Bold Thinker Hopes To Change How We Think About Food Waste

Josh Treuhaft spends a lot of time in time in the garbage. He’s a food pioneer, designer, and sustainability expert, working to combat the insane amount of food waste in America. And that means getting intimate with our trash.

“Most people don’t really know how big our food system is,” Treuhaft tells Uproxx. “40 percent of the food supply in America is currently going to waste. That would be the equivalent of every day, if every person in America just threw their lunch in a trash can.”

That statistic disturbs Treuhaft greatly. Especially when you consider that tens of millions of people in America are also going hungry on a regular basis. The biggest frustration of it all is that much of the food that’s being thrown out isn’t actually bad. It just has an imperfect physical appearance.

“These items are delicious.” Portland chef, Lauren Chandler, tells Uproxx. “They just don’t have their makeup on. They’re not perfect. But what is that? It’s the inside that counts.”

Treuhaft isn’t the kind of person who sits back and lets problems linger. He grabs the bull by the horns, and gets things done. When faced with the issue of food waste, he decided to fight back — in the most stylish, fun way possible (while totally upending the status quo in the process).

Most of the time, when you go out for a fancy, multi-course meal, you expect only the freshest, most-perfect ingredients. But what if, Treuhaft thought, you paid for an amazing dinner made out of garbage instead? Or, more specifically, the food that stores and farmers can’t sell, because it’s browning or the wrong shape or a little bit wilted, but still totally good. And if that meal was just as good as the kind you’d find in any restaurant, would that change the way you looked at food forever?

With that question in mind, Treuhaft started the Salvage Supper Club. The club, which hosts incredible dinners in cities all across the country, may be using ingredients that were slated for the trash, but this is no bland, ordinary meal. Salvage Supper Club uses world class chefs to turn unwanted food into exquisite, 6-course tasting menus, and it’s become one of the hottest tickets around. Even if it’s literally hosted in a dumpster.

Lauren Chandler and Josh Treuhaft talk to diners about their meal during a Salvage Supper Club event.

Treuhaft has been running Salvage Supper Club now for a few years, and it’s been a huge success. Chefs and diners are both thrilled with the food. Customers get a creative, delicious menu made just for them, and chefs get to experiment with foods that would normally be overlooked. Plus, they get to create a dining experience that actually means something. The meals serve as education for diners. If we all took another look at our food, we could really reduce the waste we’re producing. It allows chefs, foodies, and Treuhaft to live their passions while also changing the world, and that’s incredibly exciting.

“It’s a way to touch people,” Treuhaft says. His hope is that people leave his dinners more savvy about the way they use and purchase food.

An amazing dish from a Salvage Supper Club Event in Portland.

Chandler, who was the executive chef for a dinner in Portland, also hopes that her meal changed the way diners think. If a few people are inspired to pause before they toss away that wilted spinach, and think instead about how they can salvage it, then they’re doing their job.

The club has hosted 28 dinners in the past four years, and the proceeds go towards feeding the homeless. It’s a project that reminds us that if we want to reshape the way we think about food waste, we should make changes right away. After all, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. And if we don’t change the way we approach food sustainability and the environment now, we may not have anything to waste in the future.

For now, Treuhaft is looking for new ways to create sustainability in the food world. He’s just not content to simply do what everyone else has been doing, and his efforts have worked so far. His bold ideas, and innovative dinners have people across the country clamoring to eat trash.

Except it’s not, of course. It’s been transformed. And that’s the point. Treuhaft is making people see the problem of food waste, and the potential solutions in a new light and from a new angle. If we all start eating perfectly good imperfect produce? We might just change the world. All it takes is redefining the way we look at food, and when a gourmet chef (like the ones creating menus with Salvage Supper Club) is involved, that’s not too hard to do.