Saturday, May 16, 2009

A waste of good food

The following experience happened to a friend, who said I could reproduce it here if I omitted all identifying characteristics.

This friend of mine was attending a vendor-sponsored conference at an upscale hotel. During the day, there were seminars and case studies; in the evening, there was a team-building exercise called the "Chef's Challenge."

Attendees were divided into groups and seated at tables. On each table was a book about a famous artist (Dalí, Van Gogh, Manet, etc).

At the far end of the room were ingredients: cuts of raw beef, chicken, scallops and shrimp on ice; heirloom tomatoes, greens, fresh fruit; a table-top garden of live herbs. In my friend's words, "An obscene amount of food."

The teams had to use a selection of ingredients to create a dish that best illustrated the work of their given artist.

As my friend tells it:

"So one of the women at our table runs up, grabs a salad bowl, and just starts dumping stuff in it: raw shrimp, then these beautiful tomatoes, then some pasta, then mussels on top of that. Basically she made everything inedible. I just stayed out of it."

So what did she make?

"Some vaguely Mediterranean dish: seafood in wine. The winning dish was the table that got Dalí—they did a flatbread that was hanging off the edge of the plate like a melting clock."

And then what happened?

"We went into the room next door to have dinner. We left this room full of food—these expensive ingredients—and had more food served to us."

And the leftovers?

"Well, the stuff we cooked with was useless. And most people took way more than they ended up using, so I assume that's also cross-contaminated. Maybe some of the fresh vegetables would be salvageable, but the raw fish? No way. Basically, it was an enormous waste of food.

"Oh, and did I mention this happened on Earth Day?"

My friend returned from the trip and made a donation to the local food bank.

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