Mads Refslund thought his first cookbook would be based on a restaurant.
But the Danish chef — who was one of the founding chefs at influential Copenhagen restaurant Noma — was persuaded otherwise by Tama Matsuoka Wong, a renowned forager who’s worked for NYC restaurants including Acme, when Refslund ran the kitchen, as well as Dirt Candy, Blanca and Eataly.
“She convinced me, and I’m really, really happy I did it,” said Refslund, a NYC-based chef who wrote with Wong “Scraps, Wilt + Weeds: Turning Wasted Food into Plenty” ($35), which shares creative ways to limit food waste in the kitchen.
“It was more putting the statement out there. I was always brought up to use everything, always try to find new ways of reusing everything.”
With sections on vegetables, fruit, grains, seafood, meat, dairy and more, the cookbook offers more than 100 recipes by Refslund that encourage home cooks to use whole ingredients — including parts usually scrapped — from the tops of carrots to the stems of broccoli.
“It’s kind of an unusual book — we didn’t want it to be this typical chef-style cookbook,” Wong said. “It’s supposed to say something that’s useful to people that I hope people can come back to and use over time. There are layers and layers to it.”
One of the things Wong picked up while working on the book was an appreciation for produce that doesn’t look “perfect.”
“There’s this whole aesthetic — not a bump or wilted,” she said. “But you can use a lot of that.”
One of her favorite recipes from the book is for celery scrap pesto.
“It really combines a little bit of the crunchiness of the celery, it has a texture to it,” she said. “You can eat it with anything.”
For Refslund, eliminating food waste starts in the grocery store. “Don’t buy too much,” he said. “People are buying so much, they put it in the fridge, and then forget about it.”
One vegetable readers might notice is absent from the book is asparagus. After much testing, Refslund couldn’t quite figure out what to do with asparagus ends.
“We tried a lot of things. We did a soup with it, but it was too bitter,” the chef said. “I don’t know yet, I’m trying to figure that out.”