Changing Courses: Sustainable Cooking Q&A with Chef Allison Osorio

How has your view on food sustainability evolved over time?

I didn’t have much of an awareness of sustainability growing in the restaurant industry besides knowing that the blue bins were for recycled materials. There isn’t a program or an appointed person educating us on what sustainability means and why it is important. Besides, we are so busy trying to pump out food, that it’s hard to focus on anything else. It wasn’t until I stepped out of the day-to-day kitchen life, that I really started to learn about sustainability and that is through my own interest and time.

Why is it important for Chefs to prioritize sustainability and planet-positive practices in the kitchen?

Looking back at my experience, restaurants go through so much food waste, especially if you’re working at a large restaurant like I was. The amount of trim that’s left from cleaning fruits and vegetables, food spoilage, food sent back or food that wasn’t up to par, over-ordering, the food cycle is fast and large and I think restaurants could really benefit from having one person in charge of ordering and maintenance. Someone on top of all food coming in and the way food is stored. If we educate the main people who work with food, we can be the change agents that pass that on to our homes.

How can restaurants become more sustainable?

Restaurants can become more sustainable by reducing food waste (managing orders, storing food properly, reducing waste, utilizing as much of the ingredients as possible), investigating if there is an opportunity for composting on-site, reducing water waste, and also sourcing locally as much as possible. 

Who are some sustainable Chefs that inspire you?

Douglas McMaster and Rene Redzepi!

What is working with the Perfect Day sustainable milk and cream cheese like?

It was great that they were so educational, honest, and passionate about what they do. They are really hopeful about a greener future and are innovative in their work and products. 

How did you decide to make a pineapple mille-feuille?

I wanted to showcase that you could still make great ice cream and a great cake without dairy or eggs by utilizing the perfect day milk and cream cheese and their egg-replacer cake mix. Growing up Mexican, we ate tons of pineapple, so it’s a fruit that I love. I utilized the meat to caramelize it and I used the flesh to make a syrup that infused the cake. I also utilized the whole fruit to create pineapple chips as garnish. It’s a simple example of how the whole fruit can be utilized to support the dessert in different ways.

What’s your proudest milestone in your career with regard to the School of Quenelle?

We were recently featured in an international magazine called Arte Heladero. I have been a huge fan of the magazine for many years and it was so wonderful to see my work alongside other amazing ice cream makers. My school is only in its second year, so I felt a sense of gratitude and accomplishment.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring Chef?

One piece of advice I would give aspiring chefs is to take responsibility for their own career and their own work. Yes, you will find mentors and teachers along your journey, but you should be your greatest teacher. Be curious, ask questions, and study new topics and techniques. You have full control of your future and you can make it as loud, as colorful, and as exciting as you want.

Who or what do you look to for inspiration when developing a new recipe?

Everyday experiences inspire me and that is why I think it’s so important to live life fully. Travel as much as you can, eat as much as you can, and meet new people as much as you can. Every memory in your brain can trigger a new idea. If you have a creative block – take a walk, watch a movie or go out for coffee with a friend. Desserts that convey emotion are important to me, so explore as many emotions as you can 🙂

And finally, what is your vision of a kinder, greener future?

My vision is to always be open and share my experiences. The more I learn about sustainability, the more I need to speak about it because it’s key to spreading awareness. And if I don’t know enough about it, that’s okay too, but I should also vocalize that. I hope that by being open and honest, we can grow collectively to make better choices for a greener future. I also just got a composting machine for my home, I’m really excited to use it! 

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