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  • Writer's pictureMona Shah

Living Intentionally as a Zero Waste Chef

Making environmentally and socially responsible choices has risen in our collective consciousness over the last few years. Extreme weather conditions are wreaking havoc worldwide, and becoming a conscious consumer is imperative for a more sustainable future for our planet. I have always advocated a recycling-first mindset, but now after meeting Anne-Marie Bonneau, will actively seek out alternatives to plastic in the first place. Anne-Marie blogs under the moniker Zero Waste Chef, where she teaches us about reducing waste, especially in the kitchen. It is easier than we think. Globally, food waste accounts for about 8% of greenhouse gas emissions (to put that in perspective, the aviation industry generates 2.5%), so if we all implement small changes, it farther the ripples will spread. Bonneau talks about how a few years into her journey to reduce plastic in her life, she noticed that she had reaped so many health benefits. When she eliminated the waste, she eliminated packaged, highly processed food. Processed foods not only lack fiber and nutrients, they also throw our guts off balance; and research continues to reveal that our guts control every aspect of our health.

And if health, better tasting food, increased independence and happiness don’t get you on board, perhaps money will. In her book, The Zero Waste Chef, Bonneau lays out an attainable vision on how we can achieve a zero waste kitchen, along with vegan and vegetarian recipes for cooking with scraps, creating fermented staples, and using up all your groceries before they become waste.

Here she shares three of her recipes, even as she urges us to learn to cook without a recipe, think ahead to the next recipe so that we can use everything all the time. As you chop and mince and stir, contemplate the next incarnation of the bits left over from prepping. Soaking or fermenting or proofing something on your kitchen counter nearly constantly will save you time, as will having a least a couple of ingredients prepped and ready to go. After all, this is how our grandmothers lived, they were zero waste before it was cool to be zero waste!

Eat-All-Your-Vegetables Pancakes

Makes 12 3-inch pancakes


  • 4 cups grated vegetables, such as russet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, or cabbage

  • 1⁄4 cup bread crumbs or flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, or rye)

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt Freshly ground black pepper Olive oil, for frying


  1. If using zucchini or potatoes, place them in the center of a thin dish towel. Roll up the towel and squeeze out the juice. Refrigerate or freeze the liquid for broth.

  2. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Stir in the bread crumbs, eggs, salt, and pepper to taste and combine well.

  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to coat it.

  4. For each pancake, drop 1/4 cup of the batter into the hot pan. With a spatula, flatten it down so it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Flip after the bottom has browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan once the other side has also browned, another 3 to 5 minutes.

  5. Add more oil to the pan as necessary and continue cooking the pancakes. Keep them warm in the oven all together, or serve individually at once.

Kernel-to-Cob Corn Chowder

Serves 4


  • 4 ears corn on the cob, with husks and silks

  • 8 cups water

  • ½ cup raw cashews

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 2 serrano or jalapeño peppers, minced, with seeds

  • Celery stalks, including leaves, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano 2 small red potatoes, cubed

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (from 1 lime), or more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more as needed

  • Chopped fresh cilantro

  • Red pepper flakes (optional), to serve


  1. Remove the husks and silks from the corn. Scrub the ears well. Use a sharp knife to cut off the kernels.

  2. Place the cobs, husks, and silks in a large pot with 8 cups of water and cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down the heat to medium low, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until the broth turns golden and fragrant and tastes sweet. Strain through a sieve; you’ll need approximately 5 cups of broth.

  3. Place 1 cup of the hot broth in a blender and add the cashews; let soak for 10 minutes.

  4. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, onion, peppers, and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the oregano. Add the corn kernels and the potatoes, and stir until coated.

  5. Add 4 cups of the reserved broth, bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

  6. Purée the cashews and broth in the blender until creamy.

  7. Add 2 cups of the soup to the blender and purée until smooth, then stir the purée into the pot. Add the lime juice and salt. If desired, add more broth to thin the chowder if it seems too thick. (Refrigerate or freeze any remaining broth.)

  8. Ladle the chowder into bowls and sprinkle with the cilantro and, if desired, the red pepper flakes.

Simple Spicy Kimchi

Makes 4 cups


  • 1 (2-pound) napa cabbage

  • 1 (1-pound) daikon radish, cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks that are 1⁄8 inch thick

  • 4 scallions (white and green parts), cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt, or more as needed

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced or grated

  • 1⁄4 cup gochugaru

  • 1 teaspoon dried kelp granules (optional)


  1. Peel off 1 cabbage leaf and set it aside. Beginning at the top of the cabbage, cut it into 2-inch-wide pieces.

  2. In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, radish, and scallions. Sprinkle on the salt.

  3. Squeeze handfuls of the vegetables as you mix everything. This crushing helps breaks down the cell walls, which will release water. Continue to squeeze the vegetables for a few minutes until they feel quite wet and the cabbage has become somewhat limp. Taste. If you’d like more salt, sprinkle in a bit more. If it tastes too salty, you can remedy this by adding more cabbage.

  4. Place a plate over the vegetables and place a weight on the plate, such as a jug filled with water. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the vegetables sit for a couple of hours.

  5. While the vegetables rest, in a separate bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, gochugaru, and kelp granules (if using).

  6. Remove the weight and plate from the cabbage. You should find liquid pooling in the bottom of the bowl. Add the spice mixture to the vegetables and combine everything well.

  7. Pack the kimchi into a jar large enough to hold 6 cups or pack two smaller jars that can each hold 3 to 4cups (see page 47 on choosing jars). Pack the vegetables into the jar tightly. This will force out airbubbles and submerge the vegetables in the liquid.

  8. I use my bare hands for this, but depending on the spices and how much you put in, you may want to use alarge wooden spoon, pestle, or, if you have one, a wooden pounder. After packing, pour in any liquidremaining in the bowl.

  9. Leave at least 2 inches of space at the top of the jar. Stuff the reserved cabbage leaf into the jar. (If using two jars, cut the cabbage leaf in two and use half for each jar.) That alone may keep the kimchisubmerged in the liquid. If you have a glass weight, place that on the cabbage leaf. A small glass jar suchas a yogurt jar also works. Closing the lid pushes the small jar down, which shoves the cabbage mixturebelow the surface of the liquid. If you cannot easily close the jar with the small jar inside of it, remove some of the vegetables to make more space.

  10. Napa cabbage contains a lot of water. In the unlikely event that the resting cabbage did not release enough liquid and the kimchi is not completely submerged in the jar, pour a bit of water in until you’ve covered the vegetables

  11. Place the jar on a small plate to catch any liquid that may bubble out during active fermentation. Leave the jar at room temperature for at least 3 days.

  12. Carbon dioxide will build up in the jar during the active fermentation, which will likely begin on day 1.During this period, open your jar daily to release the pressure. Taste daily. Depending on your kitchen,your kimchi will be ready in about 3 days. Move it to the refrigerator. It will keep for several months buttastes best if eaten within 2 months.


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