New film is something to chew on

Bourdain-produced documentary Wasted! takes a hard look at the global problem of food waste

Anthony Bourdain doesn't want you to waste your food.

Last Tuesday, Bourdain, who died in June this year, showed up in a documentary film that warns people against the environmental and social sin of throwing away food. The Bangkok screening of Wasted! The Story Of Food Waste was hosted by The Sasin Sustainability and Entrepreneurship Centre.

Partners and sponsors of the event included Winnow, UN Environment, Tesco Lotus, Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen's Park and Scholars of Sustenance (SOS) Foundation Thailand.

The event began with a reception where people could enjoy canapés made from food that would have otherwise been thrown out, by senior executive sous chef of the Bangkok Marriot Marquis Queen's Park David Bucher.

There were approximately 10 different dishes made from food waste that guests could choose from, such as a salmon tartare made from the meat that is left on the skin when a salmon fillet is cut, bread and butter pudding made with leftover croissants from a previous event, and a colourful egg salad made with eggs that were past the best before date and unable to be sold but not yet expired.

Before the main event screening of Wasted! The Story Of Food Waste, from executive producer Anthony Bourdain, there was a short panel discussion with Bucher where he described what was used to make each dish, and the importance of knowing what is edible and what isn't.

"My biggest advice would be go back to your instincts," said Bucher. "Buy food for what you know it to be not for what it is labelled as or dated as. We tend to throw out a lot of edible food because of the misconception about best before dates."

The film begins with Anthony Bourdain, in his typically blunt fashion, stating: "I hated the whole idea of this movie. I don't like the idea of being an advocate." He goes on to talk about his old school kitchen upbringing where wasting food was taboo. He was taught to "use everything, waste nothing".

The main theme of the film was along the same lines of Bourdain's opening message. Wasting food is not only unnecessary but a much bigger problem worldwide than people realize.

The film delivered this message very effectively. Although there were times it was a little preachy, it more than made up for it with shocking facts, comedic moments, innovative ideas and insightful thoughts by industry professionals.

From left, Anthony Bourdain, Nari Kye, Anna Chai and Danny Bowien at the New York premiere of Wasted!, on Oct 6 last year. Photo: Invision/AP

The film quickly establishes an inverse pyramid of preferred outcomes for food. This pyramid becomes the vehicle that drives the film forward.

The pyramid starts with people, followed by animals, energy, compost and landfills. The film rolls its way through each level of the pyramid, explaining the biggest problems in that section, and sharing stories and ideas from across the world that aim to fix each problem.

According to a survey by the Pollution Control Department, Thailand produces 1.14kg of garbage per person per day, or approximately 27 million tonnes of waste per year, 64% of that -- or 17.3 million tonnes per year -- is food waste.

This whole event was aimed to bring focus and awareness to this very serious problem facing Thailand and the rest of Asia.

Luckily for Thailand, there are many examples of ways that food waste production can be cut down. Many of those examples are being implemented right here in Asia.

Approaches from Japan and South Korea were displayed to show how some places have been able to decrease food waste and, in South Korea's case, almost eliminate it entirely.

Based on the interesting, informative and helpful discussion of the pre-film panel with chef Bucher and the reaction to the film by the at-capacity audience, it is safe to assume that the hosts of the event were successful in getting their message across and raising awareness of this growing problem.

Wasted! The Story Of Food Waste will be available on Oct 13 on various video on demand services.