Anthony Bourdain is capable of getting people excited about weird things. He's hoping he can get you excited about not wasting food.
In a Times Talk promoting his new food waste documentary Wasted, Bourdain and Danny Bowien talked about how to start tackling the global problem of food waste. (Globally, 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown out every year. In the US, 40% of all food is wasted.)
Food waste doesn't just happen in your kitchen or at a restaurant. (Though, that is a large percentage of food waste.) "Go to any major chain supermarket and think about that tower of perfectly stacked, impeccable oranges or tomatoes," Bourdain said. "Understand that the supermarkets by design have already figured and cost out the fact, the immutable fact, that they will throw 30% in the garbage just so it will look cool. This is horrifying."
To stop food waste that takes place at the grocery store, Bourdain suggested you and anyone else who frequents grocery stores need to start asking for ugly produce. "How we value food, what we perceive as beautiful, desirable, and worth paying money for is a completely ephemeral thing that changes from year to year depending on what 'thought leaders' decide," he said. "The fact is, if enough chefs make ugly tomatoes cool, everybody's going to want cool tomatoes. Ugly tomatoes. That's going to be the big thing. Everybody's going to go to Whole Foods and say, 'These tomatoes aren't bruised enough. They're all symmetrical.'"
Bourdain also talks about how he has been reluctant to take up causes during his career. "I was really reluctant to attach myself to anything like this. But the issue of food waste is something that is beaten into every cook who came up in the old school, and maybe even the new school," Bourdain said. "The moment you enter the kitchen, it is an economic and financial imperative, particularly in the old school French system: Waste nothing, use everything. I know that both of us came up in a system where you were punished, humiliated if you wasted or mistreated or disrespected valuable or potentially valuable ingredients."
He later got more pointed when asked if chefs should "stay in their lane" and avoid politics. "Fuck that," he said. "Is there anything on this planet more political than food? No, there is not. Who eats? Who doesn't eat? Who is cooking? Who is eating? Why are we eating a lot of the things we eat?"
Watch the entire Times Talk above.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.