A JOURNEY OF MY FOOD
How I begin
I have been passionate about food since very young but I have never considered myself as a foodie or food expert. I just love to eat and try new things when I am travelling since every culture has its own gastronomic characteristic. There are mysteries about food that makes me excited to explore. I’m just a graduate from Faculty of Arts who enjoys eating food. Before I graduated from college, I worked as a part-time in a coffee shop near Phrom Phong BTS station in Bangkok. I still worked there for months after graduation. However, I was thinking of getting a new job relating to food which I wanted to try to pursue in this career. Then with my suggestion of my friend who her acquaintance opened a small bakery, I applied to work over there to challenge myself. Unfortunately, I ended up working there only for 2 months. I never thought that working in food industry would be that hard. After that I thought working in food industry wouldn’t be my thing.
However, a new fortuity suddenly came up to me when my friend invited me to work together at the new hotel that we are opening in Chiang Mai. She entrusts me to be in charge of breakfast which is beyond working in the kitchen. I was thinking to myself if I could do it. Nonetheless, like it is said “When opportunity knocks at your door, open the door and seizes it as quickly as you can.” That’s why I moved to Chiang Mai and started my beginning.
Where I learn
During first two months of opening hotel was the most struggling because we had more guests checking in each day, meaning different tastes were increasing too. We talked with guests and received reviews and comments from guest about breakfast of what we could improve to satisfy their need, more variety and warming food method were added gradually. Thanks to our guests and our team, it took months by observing, managing and my friend’s supports to settle down and it went well until March, when the novel coronavirus hit globally.
Throughout March the number of guests at our hotel was decreasing and we had to change from buffet serving to a la carte. We were mostly serving the same thing and slightly changed Thai dish to egg choices, such as omelet or scramble and added bacon and sausage. The idea was “Make your own breakfast” that guest chose from the list and we had to cook freshly and served them hot for hygienic reasons. The kitchen was very busy at the time. Although it was a la carte, guest was able to refill if they wished to. We were doing like that until the end of March when we had no guest and lockdown was imposed afterwards.
When I realize
While we were under self-quarantine in hotel, we were planning projects for hotel and sustainability was one of our aims. I did some investigation online how much waste in hospitality section is produced per year; nearly 30% from total waste produced by hospitality section is from food waste. Moreover, the waste is generated around 1.14 kg per day per person in Thailand and more than 50% is food waste. These numbers made me think of how much “I” discarded food when I was working both in bakery and hotel.
During two months of working in bakery, I still remember how many buns and donuts were thrown away after we closed the shop since we cannot resell it on the next day. Sometimes I brought it home to eat for breakfast. There were also loaves that we were selling such as Shokupan, Brioche and Chocolate Babka. These loaves we kept for selling only 2 days before we turned them to sweet croutons. I think these waste came from certain factors like operation day, weather and location. During weekday we had fewer customers or when it is raining we barely had customers. Also we were located in residential area where not much people pass by. Therefore there were days that we had a lot of edible food disposed.
What about hotel? In the beginning, I was only thinking of food waste that was left by guest. However, I have found out that the result of food waste wasn’t only the leftover by guests, but also the absence of apprehension of proper food management. Food waste in hotels already started even before the purchase of ingredient. The communication of kitchen with front desk and the miscalculation of food portion to number of guests can leads to unnecessary wastage. Lack of these practices easily results in over purchasing and overproduction to spare enough food for breakfast, especially when a hotel set a buffet for breakfast.
What I do
I was reflecting if we had done anything with this issue. We separated the organic residues from other trash. We recreated menu such as boiled egg by turning them in to egg spread. Also we used uneaten tomato salad to make pink sauce. With those we made topping for open sandwich. The stale breads that cannot be served were collected and turned to bread pudding. The leftover like Thai food would be consumed by staff during lunch and taken home for dinner.
However, there still are a lot of foods to be discarded, edible and inedible, which will go to the landfill. They will be rotten and emitting methane, the greenhouse gas causing climate change. I have estimated the approximate food waste at our hotel per day; it might weight around 8-10 kg. In one year the hotel might have discarded 2920-3650 kg of food and residue. Imagine of accumulating every hotels in this world, how much we are generating hazardous gas. If the global food waste were a country, it would be a third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Hence we think that we should take this issue seriously since it affects everyone.
Since now we are not having a lot of guests, it is easier for us to avoid storing excessive ingredient and to control the food waste. If the tourism is back to normal, apart from setting a new management for kitchen, we aim to make the most of food waste, by turning them to soil. My friend got a brochure of an organic composter, Oklin, which uses biotechnology to decompose food wastes in 24 hours, resulting in organic fertilizer or soil. The machine will help us reducing food waste up to 90%. The only complication is that we cannot afford to buy it right now due to lack of consistent guests caused by the pandemic. Nonetheless, we are hoping when everything is back to normality we will be a part of sustainable community to save the planet.
Why I change
People might think about the overuse of plastic and non-renewable energy like petroleum when it comes to sustainability, but food waste is also a factor of climate change. Human does not only consume food because of hunger, but also to, unnecessarily, satisfy their needs. There’s many time that I bought a lot of foods and I left them in fridge until rotten. If I didn’t overbuy, I could have avoided the wastage. I know food is one of four requisites in life to assuage hunger and it allures people to admire them by the look, smell and taste. Food wants us to cook and devour its beauty but it is our duty to restrain our greed and estimate yourself if you really need it or not. Assessing yourself is part of learning process. Being sustainable can be part of everyday life and it’s not hard to achieve.