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Eat Those Stems: Talking Food Waste Reduction with 2022 ‘Taste It Don’t Waste It’ Champion Steven Goff

On May 1, 2022, after wrapping up four weeks of activities and engagement for Food Waste Reduction Month, Food Waste Solutions WNC hosted its first-ever Taste It, Don’t Waste It: Asheville Chefs Challenge event at Wicked Weed’s production facility and taproom in Candler. And it was a blast! 

Four talented, popular, waste-conscious Asheville chefs (John Rice of Wicked Weed’s downtown brewpub, Clarence Robinson of Cooking with Comedy, Eric Morris of Cultura, and Steven Goff of Tastee Diner) created fantastic dishes from food scraps that many home cooks might just throw away. 

The large crowd that gathered in the hallway and patio of the taproom lined up to sample the incredible dishes at each chef’s station: 

  • Vegan sous vide leek ends and grilled leeks with lemon topped with crispy fried leek tops, leek-infused oil and chile-garlic purée (John Rice)
  • Ham and cheese croquettas with sweet potato jus made from scraps of prosciutto, house-cured Cuban ham, capicola, and various cheeses, breadcrumbs from leftover buns, rosemary-infused rendered pork fat, flour, and whey leftover from mozzarella production, and dehydrated spring onion tops powder. (Eric Morris)
  • Mac and cheese with collard greens salsa made with leftover pasta, chicken scraps, and collard greens stems. (Clarence Robinson)
  • Smoked brisket burnt ends with pork jus, collard-stem kimchi, herb-stem chimichurri, pork rind crumb gremolata, and grits made with corn-cob stock. (Steven Goff)

After the guests tasted — and sometimes re-tasted, then re-re-tasted! — each of the dishes, they were encouraged to select their favorite, write it down, and drop their vote into the big, silver stockpot at the entrance. 

As you can imagine, it was a tough decision, and the race was very close. But in the end, chef Goff won the most votes with his inventive smoked brisket and bright, flavorful toppings. Not only was it tasty, but his dish was a tribute to innovative waste avoidance: The brisket was trimmed pieces. The pork jus was made from whey leftover from cheese making, bones from breaking down a hog, and simmer liquid from making pork rinds. The kimchi was made from collard stems and fermented veggie scraps. The chimichurri was made from herb stems. The gremolata was from the crumbs of pork rinds, and the grits were cooked in stock made from corn cobs.

Months after the competition, as he celebrated the opening of his newest venture, Tastee Diner on Haywood Road in West Asheville, Goff shared some insight with Food Waste Solutions WNC on what inspired the winning dish and why food waste reduction is so important to him. Oh, and he divulged a couple of his magical recipes as well!

What inspired the dish you made for Taste It Don’t Waste It 2022?

Goff: Honestly, everything on that dish is something we just always do in the kitchens I operate. I absolutely love the burnt ends portion of barbecue because of the diverse textures and flavors involved, and I love making stock with all the hog skin and bones after a whole-hog catering and using the simmer liquid from pork rind production. 

When I first started making pork rinds, it was in the middle of winter, and we dumped our simmer liquid down the drain, and it immediately congealed and clogged every pipe in the kitchen. That’s when I realized how much lip-smacking goodness (aka gelatin and collagen) it had. I love the collard stem kimchi because it packs a ton of flavor and keeps its texture. I frequently use it in place of red pepper flakes when I’m making collards. And corn cob stock always adds a nice little bit of fresh corn flavor

At the competition, you noted that as a chef you are passionate about finding ways to use food scraps and avoid food waste. Why is this important to you, and what first piqued your interest in not wasting food?

Goff: I spent my teens and early twenties on and off homeless and hungry, so I really hate when thought isn’t put into what could possibly be done with all the trim and “waste” we create in a commercial kitchen. When I went to school at A-B Tech, I would gather all the organs, heads, skin, and trim [from breaking down animals] and stay after class to attempt to make things with it. So it’s been a focus since early on in my career. I feel like every time we throw something out in a kitchen that we could have utilized somehow, it’s a slap in the face to all the hungry people around the world as well as the plants and animals that give their lives so that we can have food on our tables. 

What’s one common food item most people throw away that drives you crazy? How should they be using it?

Goff: Kale and collard stems!!!!! They’re so nice raw and shaved thin as a garnish or in salads. They ferment and pickle awesome. They add great texture and body to soups and stews. They add great crunch to egg and tater salads as well.

Can you share one super easy technique you use in your kitchen for repurposing a meat or veggie scrap?

Goff: Any herb stems or greens about to go before you can get to using them can make a great chimichurri-like sauce. For greens, I take about a quart of greens, salt, pepper, and five to 10 garlic cloves (I like 10….) and purée with oil until you have a bright-green garlic spread. I like to mix with mayo for sandwiches or marinate meat and veggies in it before grilling or smoking.

Collard Stems Kimchi

Weigh your chopped collard stems. Massage 2.5% of their weight in salt into them, then let them hang out for a few hours and up to overnight. Mix with some kimchi paste.

My favorite kimchi paste recipe is:

1 cup garlic, puréed

3 large onions, puréed

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup dried arboles and guajillo peppers, reconstituted

1 cup or so of pepper water from reconstituting dried peppers

Sweat out the puréed onions and garlic in some extra virgin olive oil. Deglaze with vinegar, peppers, and pepper water. Bring to a boil. Add 1 cup of rice flour. Purée all.

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