"The most challenging part about using all parts of an animal or vegetables... is to make it look nice on a plate," says sous chef Njec Seruga, noting that since guests can already be hesitant about the concept of eating food waste, it's extra-important for it to look appetizing. "It's easy to make a great-looking dish when you're using the perfect-looking vegetables and center cuts of beef fillet, but a little trickier with misshapen carrots, eggplant skins, and vegetable tops."
How does the tasting menu price stay so low?
Telo breaks down the basic restaurant economics as such: "If we were to do a regular dinner service or lunch service [on Sundays] and not sell these items, they're going to become trash, so their value goes down. It's much better to sell everything at a lower cost than to sell a couple things or a few things at a higher cost. That's the way we keep it down."
Though a mix-and-match meal of small-plate food scraps at Dan Barber's pop-up was at least $60 per person (before the price of sangria made with bruised fruits), and six of Mimi Cheng's food scrap dumplings cost $8.75, other than the operating and staffing costs of a restaurant, a food scrap is free. To pass health codes and serve food up to par with New Yorkers' palates, the scraps must be tasty, fresh, or preserved in the proper way (pickled, dehydrated, canned), so it's not a question of quality or quantity of food scraps when it comes to price, but branding. When April Bloomfield (or another celebrity chef guest) popped out at the Barber pop-up, gently setting a portion of fried skate bones on your table as if you were sitting at the chef's counter at an elite restaurant, the $15-per-plate price tag still felt like a bargain, but when the ingredients are essentially free, it's the marketing and the chef's talent that you're paying for.