Zero waste, great taste – why we need Open Kitchen more than ever

Just two months ago when the current cost of living crisis wasn’t the headline news it is now and families weren’t being lectured by Tory fat cats on how to budget for deprivation Food Waste Action Week was offering its own stark reminder of food supply disconnection and trumpeting ways to fix it.

Fighting talk then from the exec director of Manchester’s Open Kitchen, Corin Bell: ”I’ve been passionate about food, food waste and food sustainability for as long as I can remember. Open Kitchen came out of a lot of trial and error in trying to develop a model that balanced tackling both food waste and food sustainability in real ways, not conflating the issues, and not using one as a sticking plaster for the other. 

“I hope that Open Kitchen can continue to be part of the campaigning movement fighting for a future where good food isn’t wasted in the first place, and emergency food provision isn’t needed, because poverty has been ended.”

As food bank use burgeons this seems further away than ever. Yet it’s not just about no family going hungry; it’s also an environmental imperative. Campaigner at Love Food, Hate Waste claim that the average UK family wastes the equivalent of eight meals every week, while food waste in UK households produces nearly 25 million tonnes of CO2 every year.

In response to all this Open Kitchen has In the vanguard of a setting a sustainable catering example, working with a huge range of food businesses to source beautiful ingredients that would otherwise be jettisoned. Zero waste is indeed their culinary mantra. So near dated milk is turned into paneer for tikka kebabs, wonky veg and fruit transformed into pickle and ketchups.

To showcase what can be achieved taste-wise, Corin and her team established its flagship Open Kitchen Café & Bar inside the People’s History Museum on the banks of the Irwell. To celebrate its first birthday new head chef Sean Lee has created a fresh summer small plates menu mostly out of raw materials that would otherwise have gone to waste. 

Sean’s CV includes exec chef of The Bath Arms, Cheddar and The Congresbury Arms, Bristol and The Burlington Restaurant at The Devonshire Arms in the Yorkshire Dales. A quite different environment but he’s not fazed: “I love the concept, and the chance to be really creative with an ever-changing mix of food. I hope that I can build a name for myself in Manchester, and also further the cause of stamping out food waste and championing local sustainably produced food. It’s a great challenge.” 

Expect Sean’s menu to change constantly to include as much local, seasonal produce as possible. For the moment there’s mozzarella arancini with home-made herb oil and garlic aioli, tempura crunchy seasonal veg with sticky tamarind sauce, and spicy butterbean hummus and homemade flatbreads, smoked haddock fishcakes and roast veg and and smoked sausage frittata. Accompanying is a new range of spritz cocktails, including a Negroni (what’s not to like?) or local beers from Blackjack.

Open Kitchen Cafe & Bar, People’s History Museum, Left Bank, Manchester M3 3ER.