We talk to 'Eco Chef' Tom Hunt about his Forgotten Feast concept and how its tackling the problem of food waste.

The Forgotten Feast is a new pop-up restaurant concept, organised by 'Eco Chef' Tom Hunt, that aims to highlight the 20 million tons of annual food waste that exists within our society by rescuing unwanted food and turning it into magnificent feasts.

A chef at waste awareness events including Feeding the 5000 and Feast on the Bridge, Tom cut his teeth as a sous chef and food demonstrator at River Cottage HQ and is a passionate advocate of sustainable food.

From 21-14 June, Tom is running a Forgotten Feast pop-up at the Fleet River Bakery in Holborn, London, where he is collaborating with food surplus charity Foodcycle. We caught up with Tom to find out more.

River Cottage affirmed my belief in sustainability, seasonality and provenance… I was interested in these things before, but at River Cottage we were restricted to certain ingredients. Having that strict hand taught me to respect sustainable produce and actually enjoy the creativity you get through having a limited palate.

Today, I won’t cook something unless I consider it to be sustainable… There’s no way in hell I’d ever put a monkfish on the menu in my restaurant, for example – even though I love it.

Forgotten Feast works with people to create awareness of food waste… It’s about celebrating the food, its abundance and variety, and showing how easy it is to make a difference, even as an individual.

I consider Forgotten Feasts to be almost carbon positive… We are saving tons of food from landfill, saving on the carbon it takes to produce that food, and generating funds to pass back to charities such as FairShare and FoodCycle that put money into projects concerning food waste.

We’re a consumer culture… Everything from our tellies to that bit of fruit you’ve got in the fridge is thrown away. It’s easier - everyone’s too busy.

At Forgotten Feast we’re supporting the ugly, the unloved and the unwanted... I’ve bought four pigs heads for this event, for example. They are beautiful, organic pigs heads that I’ve spent about 15 hours preparing – de-boning, rolling and cooking them sous-vide for twelve hours. What we’ve done is give that offal value – not only to the butcher, but to the people eating it.

The logistics behind saving this food is massively time-consuming… that’s one of the reasons why the food is being wasted in the first place. It gets sourced through quite a lengthy process.

That’s not to say you can’t do your bit at home… I’m writing a book at the moment, which is going to be about food thrift, but eating incredibly well. It’s going to be full of recipes that are waste conscious, but use very high quality food. Recipes will match the average weekly spend on food, so it works out as something that is affordable.

Creating the menus for Forgotten Feast is a complex thing… I start by creating a dream menu to the quantity of people and an ingredient wish list. We then send this to our various connections and dig around. They’ll inevitably come back with something completely different and I’ll have to re-write everything, but the process is that we end up with the right quantities of things.

I’d love Forgotten Feast to become a permanent restaurant… I think it’s a great concept. I’m collecting a repertoire of wild and randomly sourced dishes that I know I can get hold of. One of my signature dishes is Pig’s Head Pancetta. Another is Scallop Frills Fritters. The frills of scallops are usually discarded but there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re delicious.

BUY TICKETS TO THE FORGOTTEN FEAST

Tickets (£30) to The Forgotten Feast (running from 21-24 June at the Fleet River Bakery in Holborn) are still available. Click here to buy your tickets

CONTACT TOM HUNT

Tom is available for as a guest chef at wedding, events and banquets and for festival catering. Find out more at www.tomsfeast.com

Interview by Emily Jenkinson

21 June 2012