General: Food Network »

The Big Waste
Posted by Jillian Madison

Brace yourselves, because I don’t say this often: The Big Waste was a freaking fantastic show. I can’t remember the last time I so thoroughly enjoyed something on the Food Network – and actually learned something along the way. Here’s a quick recap for those who missed it.

Anne Burrell, Alex Guarnaschelli, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon were tasked with preparing a multi-course meal for 100 guests. The catch? They could only use ingredients that were unwanted, rejected, or otherwise deemed unsuitable for sale. In other words, waste food headed for the trash.

They worked as teams (boys vs girls), and were told the guests would decide which team was the winner. Chefs are competitive people, and Anne and Alex let the boys know they were going to kick their butts. That gave Bobby Flay the opportunity to drop the most cringeworthy “joke” of 2012 so far:

The teams set out to various markets and shops to see what they could scrounge up. They were expecting to find scraps of meats and discarded lettuce leaves, but in reality, they found far more “waste” food than they could even use. The amount of food discarded by farms, grocery stores, bakeries, butchers, and other shops was completely shocking to see. American consumers turn their noses up at bruised produce, or spices with broken stems, resulting in 27 million tons of edible food being thrown away every year.

Anne and Alex headed to a bakery to see what they could find. Alex drove, and I literally laughed out loud when she leaned on the horn for 5 seconds after getting frustrated with some idiot NYC driver:

These two need their own show. For real.

Later that night, Anne met up with a Freegan guy who dumpster dives for his food every night, and exists on perfectly good food that the markets throw away. He and Anne found tomatoes, breads, fruits, and more. They even found time to poke fun at Bobby Flay. Ah yes. A Freegan after my own heart!

The next day, everyone split up to go do their own things. This is where we learned how men hug, vs. how women hug.

Alex collected a bunch of fresh chicken eggs that were going to be discarded because they were too big or too small to fit in an egg carton. Anne collected freshly killed chickens that couldn’t be sold to markets because their skin was torn during slaughter. Bobby scored bushels of corn that were going to be thrown out because wind knocked the stalks over. It was eye opening – though very difficult – to see all of that food being wasted.

While the chefs were in the kitchen cooking, the guests started to arrive. Claire Robinson was there! Poor, poor Claire. Girlfriend didn’t even get a text overlay featuring her name.

The guests voted, and they chose THE MEN as the winners of the competition. Their prize? Mini garbage can trophies. I added Oscar in. He needed to be there.

And that brought the show to an end! If you didn’t see it, I highly recommend catching it when it re-airs next weekend!



Other posts on Food Network Humor:

---The Claire Robinson Blow-Up Doll v3.0
---South Park Versions Of Food Network Chefs (Part 2)
---Bobby Flay On Entourage
---South Park Finale Will Feature Food Network Chefs
---Food Network’s Corny Cookie Swap Video

    130 Responses

  1. Girl Fairy says:

    Thanks for the recap, Jillian- I didn’t even know about this show!! Seriously, did they run promos for it very much? Lately whenever I have FN on, all the promos are for the RR & Guy Ferry show. This looks like something that would be worth watching- is it a series, or was it just a one-time thing?

    • Mal_Pal says:

      unfortunately this was just a one-time thing. But I happened to catch it and agree that it was very well done. It actually restored a little respect I used to have for FN. Keep your eyes open for a repeat though, it’s crazy how every other show they do gets rerun like a million times and the one that’s informative, interesting, down-to-earth, not over the top, not over produced, not fake, not pretentious, and just plain ol’ good barely got any promotion and seems to have vanished from FN airwaves. Gotta get us all pumped for Fat Chefs I guess…::puke::

      • Melissa says:

        This Waste show is fabulous. FN finally found something worth watching and to make us all think (not drink like Sandra Lee)

  2. Dana says:

    I didn’t know about this show either! It’s like FN knows which shows are going to be shitty so they promo the hell out of them. I’ll pick an Anne Burrell show over that idiot Guy Ferry any day!

    • Pharmakeus Ubik says:

      If they know that much they should just stop producing the crappy ones. I know it would cut into their plastic garbage bowl profits, but wouldn’t the increased viewership balance that out?

  3. thegolli says:

    They started the promos for this show very late in the week (around Thursday), so it didn’t get the exposure that some of their other ones get. It was very good to watch and carried an important message. It was considered to be a special so it was a one shot deal.

    Now they are carrying promos for “Fat Chef”. I’m really wondering about that one.

  4. I will give them this, the show was definitely enlightening and I did enjoy it.

    Although, you managed to post a picture that showed my favorite part of the entire show…HEEEEELLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOO, CLAIRE (or more specifically, her “friends”)!

  5. LIn42 says:

    Does FN do ANY new shows that aren’t competition shows? I saw commercials for this, but it didn’t appear that it was going to be another competition, it looked to me like it was going to be some type of documentary. Jeez, I used to love watching FN but now they have the same 5 chefs on every dang show (and I can’t stand most of them) and everything is a competition.

    • FuryOfFirestorm says:

      Ditto. The few promos that FN aired made the show appear to be a documentary, not a competition between FN chefs. Way to drop the ball, FN. “The Big Waste” pretty much describes the channel as a whole.

      • ZombieFu says:

        I have to agree. I think the special could of done without the competition part. It really did not seem like the chefs cared all that much about it being one anyways. I blame Bobby Flay for that.

        • Nicquette says:

          The food waste factor was an eye opener for sure but the “big waste” was FN’s missing out on a prime opportunity to actually spotlight a significant issue in the food industry and send out a helpful message. Ugh!

  6. Griff says:

    I thought this show was compelling, but I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more pressure put on the retailers/purveyors regarding the food they are just throwing in the garbage. The message was put forth to the consumer to be more willing to buy imperfect product, but never to the retailers to find more responsible ways to manage their excess.

    • Scoobie-Doobie-Doo says:

      I had the title confused with the program description. On the FN, it’s an easy mistake.

      About the blame…..Markets respond to whims and will of the customer. I haven’t seen the program, but the explanation that “the people don’t want” smells more than the rotting greens. With 1 in 2 living at or below the poverty level, many would be estatic to have fresh vegetables of any kind.

      Surely these chefs and food programs have perpetuated the myth that only camera ready is good enough. They aren’t happy with a ripe tomato, it’s got to be an heirloom tomato grown on the breasts of Argentine Virgins and drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil that will never be truely good enough for the shent shod chef. Unless you happen to live in a climate where Farmer’s Markets are a year long possibility, finding the exact ingredients for many of “today’s” recipes just doesn’t happen at the average A&P, and it would be refreshing if the FN and their hoity-toidy cooks would wise up and cook for the rest of us.
      Oh, and go ahead and use the “regular” products the rest of us have to chose from.

      • I agree. It will be interesting to see how many bruised peaches and cracked tomatoes we see on the Food Network from this point on. I’m thinking they will be talking a good game – but when it comes down to the “only perfection will do for TV” aspect of cooking shows, it’s going to be more of the same shit.

        • Mark H88 says:

          And Jill, I’m so surprised you didn’t post a pic of the fly that landed in Jeffrey Steingarten’s hair LMAO!!

          • hungryjane says:

            i was hoping you’d do a recap of this, jillian, and was also anticipating a screenshot of the fly in steingarten’s ‘do.

            also, i found it ironic that alex g. was cutting tomatoes for marinara and being fairly wasteful whilst doing do. she was shown lopping off the tops and scraping them into the garbage, which i realize per the closing credits were composted, but STILL. it seemed completely contradictory.

            lastly, does anyone really believe that the amount of waste portrayed is 100% legitimate? i would have to think that a lot of this was pre-arranged and staged and that most scraps would be repurposed somehow or at least taken home by employees. the exception is likely the beef fat from dickson’s. but as a restaurant/food insider, i think that even while these items may not meet the standards for retail, they aren’t really meeting their demise in a dumpster.

          • Mark H88 says:

            LOL, I thought the same thing about Alex when she was saying how amazed she was with the tomatoes (that were going to be thrown out) while she was throwing away a large portion of the tops.

            And if you read my post below, I too think that things were over exaggerated due to the fact that a lot of these places seemed to cater more toward ‘richer’ people who are more snobbish about getting “perfect” stuff. The rest of us aren’t as picky and your regular farms probably don’t produce as much waste.

      • Girl Fairy says:

        Just make sure you use “really good vanilla,” or Ina will be after you!

      • Patrick says:

        Money will buy you any food product you want in most major American and European cities. Don’t you have a specialty or gourmet food store in town? This is how rich people eat. Gastronomy is considered a sort of art form in France, like fashion or the now frivolous (at least in America) sommelier. They all just tell you to “drink what you like” no matter what the dish may be, as though this would somehow be helpful to people. If I could afford the stuff on some of these shows, I wouldn’t be worrying about paying the rent.

      • Ms Gypsy says:

        Indeed.

        Caught that reference to Bobby and Michael saving the produce vendor from having to pay for hailing the “waste food” away. I think retailers could save their trash hauling dollars by letting gleaners and organized food banks haul their usable non-saleable foods away for them.
        I would like to see Food Network regularly address the issues of of poverty and food waste. I don’t even care if they make it a competition show. It seems the topics are tailor made for Food Network. What am I missing here in them not seeing this?

    • Mark H88 says:

      A lot of the place these chefs went to, seemed like your more ‘upscale’ places where the clientele would be more apt to pass over a piece of fruit that had (dear god) a slight blemish. Most of us ‘real’ Americans aren’t so picky.

      And speaking of the show, I too did love it, especially the formatting. It wasn’t your typical “Pander to the reality show watching American slob” – It was presented in more of a documentary / TLC format, concentrating more on the content and message, rather than trying to get us excited with dramatic music and phony edits (to hype the drama), which was very refreshing. At one point, I almost forgot I was watching FN.

    • sandyscirroticliver says:

      they paid for it, therefore they can do what they want with it

    • Mike V. says:

      It’s a difficult scenario.
      I worked in retail grocery for 16 years as a “green grocer” – produce man – for a large chain. I left for high tech in 2000 (not that anyone cares).
      I can tell you that our NET shrink (loss) was around 6 percent. I couldn’t give you an actual percentage because the net comes from the bottom line after factoring in sales, credit from the warehouse, etc..
      Breaking that down in a way that’s easy to understand, a box of bananas from Ecuador is 40 pounds, so about 2 and a half pounds of them got tossed from each box eventually. A very busy market probably goes through 200 cases a week. Do the math from there.
      Why all the loss? When people come into a produce department, they want it to look good and will shop and buy more if everything is perfect. And volume is key. “Stack it high and sell it cheap” was the old adage. HOWEVER, the more you cull, the more you keep things looking good and clean, the LESS you toss in the long run.
      There was a time when I was allowed (sort of) to save it all and I would give it to this guy at the end of the night who brought it to his church for people less fortunate. That is generally frowned upon for various reason too lengthy to get into here… Some used to ask me “how do you know if he’s really giving that stuff away to poor people?” to which I replied “who cares?” Better than it getting thrown in the garbage. Anyway, that’s my side from my experience. Any questions, I’d be happy to answer.

      • Mike V. says:

        Oh, and that picture of Claire is hot… :)

      • Mark H88 says:

        I know it’s a lousy situation, but I agree on why places need to discard rather than give away. I knew someone who managed a donut shop and said that they used to throw away tons of perfectly good donuts at the end of the day. When I asked why he didn’t just give them away, he said “If I gave them away, then a lot of people wouldn’t pay for them. They’d just come at the end of the day, looking for the free ones.”

        That makes perfect sense. Business is business and while we’d all like to see it put to good use, there are a lot of others who would take advantage of the generosity.

        Just like with produce, if people knew that a grocery store would give away bruised produce, they’d probably purposely start bruising stuff to make more “give aways” at the end of the day.

    • Sweet P says:

      exactly my problem with the show. very self serving to present it that way, no?

  7. Franklin says:

    Seriously, what happened to Claire Robinson? I actually really liked her show. Is she gone now or what?

  8. Wenchilada says:

    I thought the show was pretty good overall, but it made me wonder about these farmers who throw out whole chickens because some of the skin is torn. What about selling it as parts, i.e. hindquarters & split breasts? Ground chicken? Is that too much work? It seems like they’d save some of their otherwise lost profit. I wondered the same thing about the eggs: is it too much to process them into liquid eggs like they use in foodservice? I mean, those things may be prohibitively expensive for a small farm; I don’t know. I just thought some of the reasons they had for throwing everything away were downright silly. But the overall message was great; however, I also wish it hadn’t devolved into another stupid competition.

    • Ball Peen says:

      Large processors use everything. Any “parts” chicken guts, etc. at least go to pet food. Small farms like those last night may not produce enough waste to justify shipping for alternative use.

      • Wenchilada says:

        Right, I get that they’re not so big that they’d send off for byproduct processing, but with the chicken producer who said the skin was torn so he had to throw out the entire bird – how about breaking down the otherwise perfectly fine meat into drumsticks, wings, burger meat, etc? They could do that in-house with a butcher knife (or for the last suggestion, a Kitchen-Aid with a meat grinder attachment).

    • Shannon says:

      I felt the same way about the restaurant guy who got rid of a HUGE chunk of prosciutto because the fat-to-lean ratio had become unacceptable. Hello? Trim some of the fat off!!!

  9. Jackie says:

    Thanks for the recap! I was watching the BCS National Championship game, so I missed this show. I will catch the re-airing.

  10. Dr.L. says:

    This show was the only attempt at quality programming FN has done in a long time. And of course, they didn’t promote it. My patientce runs short.

    Have to give an obligatory shout out to Anne and alex. Great comedic timing and great together. Plus a shout out to Claire robinson’s boobs. Come on! You know you looked!

  11. mac says:

    After watching, I said almost the same thing you did: that was awesome, and so unlike most of what’s on FN now! Interesting that they hardly promoted it at all. I only knew about it from following Alex G. on Twitter. I also wish they’d think of airing something that isn’t a hoked-up “competition.”

    Now: since these chefs have shown us how to make gorgeous food out of “trash,” can they talk to the network about turning the crap that litters their schedule into watchable TV?

  12. I thought this was going to be a documentary on food waste not a cooking competition.

  13. Scoobie-Doobie-Doo says:

    Alex & Anne = Thelma and Louise 2.0!

    I’d go for it.

  14. J-Man says:

    That picture of Anne from the side in the blue outfit– she looks just like Glenn Close.

  15. Valerie says:

    Yes, agreed — great show. Entertaining yet informative. BUT……what was up with Donatella? Did the meal make her bloated or is she cooking a baby up in there???

  16. Kim says:

    I really liked this show also. BUT I was a little disappointed that the end thought was that consumers should be purchasing less than perfect product. Why would I spend the same amount of money on a perfect apple (where I can eat the whole thing) vs a bruised apple. If they offered it at a discount I might buy it.

    Also, I really think the chefs (who all own restaurants) could make a difference. They should make deals with retailers to take the ‘food waste’ and use them in their restaurants. And because they buy in bulk it would have a big impact I think. Plus some small chicken farmer is not going to set aside torn chickens for a regular old person like they did in the show for Anne.

    • Craig says:

      Agreed. I’m not going to spend the same money on lesser product. If there were a “bruised” or “imperfect” discount or something, I’d bet lots of people would be buying them. However, when I have to spend the same money on perfect produce vs imperfect, perfect will win every single time.

      • Matt says:

        Ditto. Here in small town ‘murka, we’ve found that if we go to the local store in the morning when they’re restocking, they’ll often offer us produce that they’d otherwise discard at a discount. Red bell peppers that have just a day or two left will go for about 5 cents each; radicchio that’s normally $4 will be $1 or less, and so forth.

        But yeah, I live alone, food packages are often big, and I don’t shop every day because there’s no store between home and work. If I spend money on produce, it has to last a while in my fridge. I can’t afford to spend the same money on produce that won’t last that long unless I’m sure I’m using it that night or the next, and that rarely happens.

        On the other hand, if stores divided every produce item into “regular” and “going out tomorrow, discounted today,” who would buy the regular ones? They’d lose even more money. It’s not a trivial problem to solve.

      • Matt says:

        (Crap, posted before I remembered my last point)

        Despite that, I think the program was both good and a big success. I sympathize with Lin42 that it was a competition show, but if they weren’t competing, would Anne have met a Freegan at midnight? Would they have looked as far and wide as they did, or just go where producers had lined up?

        It doesn’t matter if it all doesn’t apply to me, because it seems much of FN’s cooking programming is aimed at NYC types who stop for ingredients every night on the way home. Even Anne says things on her show like “I picked this up at the market today.” Those people will use blemished produce in a day or two, and they’re a perfect target for the message.

        As were the competitors. Those chefs go through 100 pounds or more of produce every single day in their own restaurants, and it doesn’t matter to them in the slightest if there’s a little blemish on the parts that would be discarded anyway. Maybe they can’t use baby carrots that grew at right angles, but like Symon said, they can think of lots of things to do with plate meat that’s just not quite as shapely as the center-cut ribs. They can use odd-sized eggs, proscuitto ends, cracked tomatoes, catering leftover ingredients that clients didn’t want, all of that stuff. They have the perfect opportunity to use that stuff, more so than any of us.

        If this kind of program changes their mindset, it’s done a lot of good. As often as FN puts crap on the air, they deserve huge praise for shows like this.

    • cloverleaf says:

      In Los Angeles, Gelson’s, a very nice, upscale market, has a marked-down rack of produce which sells perfectly fine, just older, stuff at a fraction of the original price. The bakery also has good deals.

    • Toni says:

      There is a small market near me that sells “imperfect” produce at the back of the store, along with discount bakery goods. There are ALWAYS people browsing back there. I can get bananas that have tiny bruises on them for $.25/lb or, heck, in the summer, a package of raspberries for $.67, because one or two berries are imperfect.

      Indeed, if more stores had such produce discounts, I know first-hand that quite a few people would buy “imperfect”.

      • lovedfoodnetwork says:

        I have to say that I am one of those people who will buy an “imperfect” item. Food is costly and the economy not so good. I believe most grocery stores (at least all the ones near me) have discounted areas, they are all near the back of the store, but they are there. I love to go shopping at night, 8pm or after. At this time of night I buy day old bakery items (1/2 off), marked down meat (generally 50-70% off) etc…remember just a few hours ago these items were not “day old” items and would have sold for full price. What is 3 hours compared to the tremendous savings ? I must tell you I am not the only shopper out there taking advantage of these items. I must say I loved the show and the waste astounded me.

      • cynsational says:

        Here in Alaska we have several stores that sell a bunch of less-than-perfect produce a good deal of the time. They’re called grocery stores or the commssary! For some things, I’m just happy to have them available. Plus I get to pay MORE for them! I bought ONE avocado for 1.89 and was happy to have it. There are places that have the perfect produce, but they’re out of my price range.

  17. Panther Joe says:

    I deleted this from my DVR after watching 10 minutes of what could have been a good premise devolve into what FN thinks every show needs to be…a patchwork cooking competition.

    i would have loved to see it presented in more of a documentary style, featuring the FN chefs and their input with experts on how to solve this problem.

    But this? This just seemed like a lame challenge on Next Food Network Star of Next Iron Chef.

  18. FNFan says:

    I just wished they had offered more solutions to both farmers, store owners, and consumers. The only real solution offered was Bobby Flay suggesting the meat packer provide classes for chefs to use the not so appealing parts.

    I really enjoyed the special, but to reiterate what Kim said, I am on a limited budget, and for me to spend as much money on bruised or past date products will just cause me to waste food & money, so how are we ahead?

  19. pk says:

    *I* still love you Claire!

  20. _Liz says:

    oh man, I totally missed this show. Never even caught the promo. Sure didn’t miss Guy vs Rach or Fat Chef :P
    And yes I agree, Anne and Alex need a show together where they just get to be awesome.

  21. sprode says:

    The show may have had flaws but… beggars can’t be choosers. We hate their MTV schlep then we better damn well try to get behind something like this, especially when they made a point of burying it in advertising because it wouldn’t sell as well.

    I for one appreciate them doing something a little different and doing something that contains meaning… and this insight into culture needs to be spread.

    Also Claire needs to come back and the ladies need their own show. Heheh.

  22. Linz says:

    This has always been something I’ve thought about because my boyfriend works in the produce department of a local hippyish grocery store chain. He told me that when they go through and rotate the produce that the “undesirable” products are thrown away and NO ONE is allowed to touch it. Not the employees, not anyone dumpster diving, nothing. They should take all the undesirable produce that is still edible and take it to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. SOMETHING other than just throwing it away!

    • [mecha:spider] says:

      My husband worked as the Produce Manager at Wal-Mart, and it broke his heart every single time he had to throw away any produce that had a bruise or was a little over ripe because they are not allowed to give the food away. Due to lawsuits or something. One guy even wanted the old, bruised produce so he could feed his goats… The management said NO.

      It’s a shame that corporations have such standards like that. All their ‘bad’ food goes into a compactor at work, and is carted off now for compost… But it’s still a shame that they can’t give that food to homeless shelters or food banks. So many people would love to buy it for super cheap, so they could feed their families healthy.

      But here in America, it just isn’t possible most of the time. Publix used to give their food to shelters and food banks, but just last week, I heard that they changed that policy and have to throw it away. America is so wasteful. :/

      • Kat says:

        I agree, its terrible that so much food is wasted when so many people have to go without! When I was a teenager I worked for a coffee and doughnut shop and the amount of food we had to throw out at the end of the night was heart breaking. Anything that wasn’t purchased by closing was thrown into garbage bags and tossed in the dumpster. Bags and bags and bags of stuff was thrown away. I absolutely hated it. I asked the owner if there was something we could do with all the wasted food and it turns out that they used to package it up all nicely and give it to shelters every night but then someone had to ruin it all by hitting them with a lawsuit. So in order to avoid spending any more money on ‘ the free food made me sick’ lawsuits they had to start throwing all the food out.
        To this day I still feel awful about the amount of food that was wasted while working there. And I also feel angry at the person who sued them. Seriously?? You were starving so they gave you some free doughnuts and you repay them by suing them in hopes of getting some free money! The person didn’t win their lawsuit because the food never made them sick but as usual one jerk ruins it for everyone else!

      • Sue ZQ says:

        Up until a couple years ago, someone from my church would go to a local bakery at the end of the day, pick up the surplus baked goods (they would not sell “day old”) and take it to one of the local homeless shelters. The bakery stopped it because they said there were health department rules shaker it.

        But the bakery never enlisted the help of any of the local surplus food organizations like Forgotten Harvest who are government approved to take care of the food.

        • EQSATUB says:

          Exactly. I work for an organization that regular purchases food (and by purchase, I mean pay a very, VERY small handling fee) from our local food bank for distribution. They constantly receive food from local Wal-Marts, Kroger chains, and etc., and these stores are approved to donate to them. Why any department store doesn’t do this is beyond my comprehension.

          • Linz says:

            I did work for Sur La Table for a while and when we just couldn’t keep the old Christmas/Easter/Valentine’s Day candy out on the floor any more we packaged it up and someone from a local food bank would come and pick it up. At least that was SOMETHING haha!

  23. I can’t believe FN will overpromote the crap out of their CRAP shows, but when an enlightening (albeit dumbed down) show about waste hits the air… nothing. SHAME ON YOU, FOOD NETWORK!

    RE-AIR IT

    PROMOTE THE EVER LIVING HECK OUT OF IT!

    sigh… I just know people could learn much from this show.

    PS -> Much agreement w/ all the Claire comments :-p

    ** my first comment here. Keep up the GREAT work, ladies! *

  24. The CO of Fort Housewife says:

    The reason poor Claire did not have a text overlay featuring her name is that the said text overlay would cover up some of her best qualities.

  25. Andy says:

    This show was awesome, it was almost like a reward for watching the Rach v Guy show. BTW I have been wondering where my girl Claire has been, glad to see her. Put her back on the network or at least The Cooking Channel

    • [mecha:spider] says:

      Her show, 5 ingredient fix is on Cooking Channel. In the afternoon (or at least it used to be. It was on at an awkward time for me and couldn’t catch it that often.)

  26. Bellossom Ranger says:

    I’m tempted to go down to my neighborhood Bill Miller’s and beg them for all their meat scraps and pies they’d throw away at the end of the day!

    I had a long talk with Will, a guy who runs my group home(until Friday when he’s leaving to go to school) and he shared my sentiments. Too many people throw away fruit and meat which has a blemish when you can trim off the blemish and cook it. It’s not like you’re going to be displaying it in an art museum!

    It’s reairing next Sunday? I have to force my parents to watch it! This is one great show, and when you, the blogger, praise it, it gives me hope in Food Network yet. I miss the old shows like “The Secret Life of…” or “Ham on the Street.” It’s all crazy reality shows and stuff. :(

    • Alexandrite says:

      Let us know how you get along with that–I’ve informally boycotted Bill Miller’s because several years ago they wanted to buy Carol Burnett’s childhood home, next to their West Commerce Street location, tear it down and make a parking lot out of it. :O) (Fortunately a group stepped in and stopped that)

      I’ve set my DVR for the next episode (or it may be a repeat of the premiere one)–at 4 Central this Sunday so that’s 5 Eastern and the rest of you can figure it out. Too bad FN thinks it has to have a competition to get people to watch anything but at least it’s making people aware of this shameful issue.

      • reliantrobin says:

        They did eventually agree to have the house moved, though. And Bill Miller’s does a lot of charity for the communtiy.

        Speaking of “wasted food” and Bill Miller’s, though, I noticed that if you go into one of their stores a few minutes before closing, they’re willing to sell you vast quantities of food for cut-rate prices. Once I really benefitted from that. I was able to pick up a giant box of fried chicken left over from the day and a whole lemon meringue pie for less than $10. My family and I ate really, really well for about a week.

        I don’t know if they still do that, but I’m hoping they do. It’d be nice to get to do that sort of thing again in a few months, when I can allow for that in my splurging schedule.

  27. Teague says:

    Credit where credit is due. Have yet to see it but it sounds like they did a good job showcasing the very real issue of food wastage.

    Good for FN for taking a (long overdue) chance on a serious show.

  28. Seesa says:

    Watched and loved it. Thanks for the great Recap with the captions. I missed the one with Alex/Anne about the honking/driving.

    I am happy to say some of the stores in my area sell the lesser quality produce at a discount. Sometimes they will package stuff as Soup Specials or Stew Specials with they lesser liked root veggies. These stores will also slap coupons on meat that the sell by date is almost up. Sometimes you can get some pretty decent deals.

    We alos have Caputos an Italian Deli/fruit/ meat market. While they dont discount the meat persay, they do sell meat and cheese ends in the deli as well as a Crash cart with the produce and another with dented cans.

    Overall wasn’t a bad special. I would have liked to see it more promoted and would actually like to see other specials of the same thing but maybe in different cities. and it would have been nice to see a bit more cooking of the goods they got but oh well.

    Thanks Jillian

  29. Keith Lee says:

    Wow Has Alton become anorexic?!! He looks awful!!

    • MARTIN says:

      I have been posting similar comments for about 1 year now. I agree he looks awful, and I am most convinced he is ill. In fact, as bad as the above picture looks, in real life he looks much worse. Still, I love him and I wish him the best!

    • Sean says:

      I was just thinking the same thing. Yikes! Wouldn’t want to see that lurking around my kitchen at night.

    • EQSATUB says:

      Jesus, are we back on this? The guy loss 70 pounds. For the first year or so, he looked scrawny, mainly due to his skin needing to catch with the weight loss a bit and making him look old. Between the time of the weight loss and the publishing of the last Good Eats book, he gained 10 pounds of muscle. If you watch anything that has been filmed recently (or any recent appearances), you will see that he does NOT look all that scrawny anymore. In fact, this man looks younger than just about any near 50 year-old I know (well, assuming he doesn’t wear that bowtie). People…he’s fine!!!!!!!

  30. jtdavies says:

    I know it’s one data point but last night the people in front of me paid for their food with food stamps. The only item in their cart that was fresh was a small bag of onions. They even had frozen garlic bread. I guess that’s too hard to make.

    If they had been given wilted vegetables and bruised peaches I bet they would have thrown them in the trash on the way out.

    • Alexandrite says:

      So typical of posters–you see somebody paying for their food with food stamps and conclude they must be welfare cheats. For all you know, they could be unemployed executives, with MBAs, who haven’t been able to find another job for two years. And I’m not being sarcastic because in the early 90s I went 21 months between my office closing and finding a good job with USAA. Be careful about drawing such stupid conclusions, and don’t judge people until you’ve walked a mile in their footsteps.

      • jtdavies says:

        Read it again, slowly. I didn’t say welfare cheat. I didn’t imply it.

        They looked like the cooks on Restaurant Impossible before Robert Irvine shows up. Everything processed. No fresh ingredients. That is what was in my comment. Anything else you added.

      • Dog Dad says:

        You missed his point entirely. He didn’t say anything about anyone cheating anything. He said, or at least implied, that they were buying packaged/processed/prepared foods. We all know they don’t taste as good… and for what you get, are actually WAY more expensive. I make good money, but I look for bargains and I love making things from fresh (sometimes bruised) ingredients. It’s more work, but it tastes better and is more satisfying. If I were on a limited income, I’d for sure look for ways of saving money at the grocery store but still make a good, satisfying meal! Nothing makes you feel better… and better about yourself… than a good meal!

    • [mecha:spider] says:

      As working as a cashier, I have seen many people come through the line with food stamps, and what they buy is mostly boxed, processed things.

      But speaking from experience, when all you have is $200 to last your groceries for two months, you have to buy things in bulk, things that will keep and put food in your children’s belly every night. Fresh fruit, veggies, and bread does not. A lot of people who buy with food stamps get their groceries at the first of the month and it has to last them until food stamps come back around.

      Now if you had seen then buying sodas, chips and expensive frozen dinners, then I’d understand. But, sometimes frozen garlic bread is cheaper than the loaf of bread, fresh garlic and butter. And, it will keep for the time you need it unlike fresh bread. And just because they are on food stamps doesn’t mean that they can’t have a treat every once in a while.

  31. Ava says:

    I didn’t see the show, but I saw a few comments about stores and how they should donate to homeless shelters. My brother lives in Chicago and has spent the past 6 months working in a food kitchen there. Both whole foods and trader Joe’s do donate groceries to the shelter. Surprisingly, these shelters must rely on private donations because the government funds very little, if any at all. (He works in the second largest, and 90% of their funding is private donations). So at least there’s a few companies helping out!

  32. Amber says:

    Eff Celebrity Cook-Off or whatever, this would be the best, new Food Network show. Good food will always be thrown away and Anne and Alex are hilariously entertaining together. Food Network will completely miss the boat if they only keep this a special.

  33. Dev says:

    even if the food network doesn’t, i <3 claire

  34. Mindy says:

    If you like the premise of this show but don’t like the fact that it turns into a cooking competition, you should check out a documentary called “Dive”. It’s available on streaming Netflix and it was very informative without being all about ego driven celebrity chefs.

  35. VictorV says:

    I want to be in the middle of the Anne/Alex hug please.

  36. Alyssa says:

    Didn’t get to see the show (I don’t have cable), but I agree that food waste in America is crazy. I work at a certain grocery store famous for its Hawaiian shirts. We donate all of our “spoiled” (past sell by date) bread, meat, hummus, produce, and premade salads as long as they’re still safe to consume. It amazes me how many people won’t buy a banana cause the skin is a little beat up, even though the banana itself is perfectly fine. You don’t eat the skin, do you? Despite all the stuff we donate, we still end up throwing so much away. We’re not allowed to take any of it.

  37. andy says:

    Absolutely brilliant. It’s amazing FN aired something like this, especially considering the fact that sort of a theme underlying a lot of their programming celebrates extravagant waste. What do the alleys behind the stores Ina Garten shops at have in their dumpsters?

  38. Jason Reichert says:

    Well, there’s a good reason that Claire didn’t get a text overlay that’s not related to her twins. She was next to the great Jacques Torres (granted, that still doesn’t explain her seating location next to him…they DEFINITELY are not showing her the love from before).

  39. stevo says:

    what would have made it better, is if they had told these elites they were eating dumpster grub AFTER the meal…then we would be spared the high and mighty ponitificating of the diners.

  40. sandyscirroticliver says:

    to all you posters crying about stores, restaurants etc.. throwing this food out.. They paid for it they can do what they want with it. If It bothers you so much YOU go collect it and donate it. To castigate others for do what they want with something they essentially own is socialist and a liitle bit prickish.

    If it was me, I’d have my host drown the waste in Jack and kill me off once and forever.

  41. Doogster says:

    It has to be all about liability. Throwing it all out is probably cheaper than risking a lawsuit from someone who wants to blame the discarded food on what happened to them. No good deed goes unpunished. It’s unfortunate.

    • DoctorSheryl says:

      This litiginous mind-set is not only the reason behind this waste in the food industry, but is behind the high cost of health care in the USA as well (malpractice threats resulting in over-ordering of tests). I am inclined to blame the lawyers for trying to make bucks, no matter if the offense is “legit” or not.
      -DoctorSheryl

  42. deaner says:

    I missed the show, but I am glad that the subject was addressed. A good friend of mine works with an organization that specializes in collecting these very “imperfect” foods from grocery stores – and also restaurants – and prepare meals for the needy with them.

    • DoctorSheryl says:

      Does your good friend not worry about getting sued for illness from the indigent due to receiving “inferior” product which “makes them ill”? Does he not realize that for some, suing other “good-doers” can make a good living for some who have no desire to work for a living?

  43. dja says:

    Did anyone else notice how during the competition portion of the show Alex was cutting tomatoes and was cutting off half of the tomato and put it right in the trash? Talk about a waste!

    Also, do none of the farmers know what a soup kitchen is? They would be more than happy to take any less than perfect produce or meats. I want to see how much Foodnetwork wastes in a year between all the shows and their test kitchens it must be quite a site.

  44. Nursemegg says:

    I want to know why none of this food is being donated to the soup kitchens, the homeless shelters, the battered women shelters and is instead, just being thrown in the garbage.

    some of the stuff being thrown out outdated the NEXT day…how about helping those less fortunate?

  45. Dog Dad says:

    I watched the show and for the most part, liked it. I agree… I’m sick of all the competition shows. I LOVE Anne, but she should have been paired up with a real chef. All Alex did was complain and whine… and second-guess the REAL chef on the team. That’s also what she did on her pathetic attempt to become an Iron Chef. So that leaves poor Anne and her dowdy, wide-load assistant against two Iron Chefs.

    But seriously, the show wasn’t about the competition. It was about the HORRIFYING amount of perfectly good…if not spectacular food that gets thrown out. And guess who leads the public in believing that a little blemish on a tomato deems it worthy of the dumpster? The revered Iron Chefs! You bet they do! Have you ever seen anything that isn’t just frickin’ PERFECT when that big dome goes up to reveal the “Secret Ingredient” on Iron Chef America?

    I love Bobby… but I’m sure a quick inspection of one of his kitchens would find a selection of meats, fruits and vegetables selected by the most OCD of assistants fearing the wrath of Chef Flay for presenting anything that is not divine in it’s shape, color and purity.

    And how could you not love Michael, with his infectious laugh and down-to-earth warmth and honesty. But that Pork tattoo on his chest? It’s no 3-legged pig!

    Anne has worked for the best… and has learned a lot of their wasteful ways. Alex, it appears, will nosh on about anything and is just happy to be invited to hang out with the cool guys and girls.

    So yeah, these guys’ jaws dropped at all the waste. And they served some pretty amazing dishes to the Chosen Ones invited to the party. And the Chosen Ones can go back to their own cocktail parties and regale their own guests with the new-found knowledge of how wasteful people have become… while serving trendy little one-bite morsels of perfection created from the best and most expensive Chelsea Market has to offer and whipped up by their own private chefs.

    And please correct me if I’m wrong… but I don’t remember any of the four chefs on this program vowing to change their own habits when it comes to choosing ingredients for their own kitchens. Would that not be the ULTIMATE purpose of this show? Setting a good example for the rest of us?

    Like so many of the shows on FN, this one was truly misguided. Great concept. Well produced. Amazing message. My favorite chefs…and Alex. But no call to action on THEIR part. Apparently you and I should buy all the damaged goods their assistants make when they plow through a bin of produce looking for the Holy Grail of Tomatoes.

    They should AT LEAST can that stuff and let it end up on one of Sandra Lee’s shows!

    • Mark H88 says:

      Yeah, I love how virtually every show on FN discusses how the “Freshest” ingredients are what make the best dishes, yet here they are saying “America is so wasteful because someone won’t buy ricotta cheese that is ready to expire in a few days”. :/

      It did seem like the chefs were making it sound like they are appalled at “our” buying habits. Like you said, I highly doubt that, given the choice, Bobby Flay would choose the corn from the hurricane blown field over the pristine corn, when it came to cooking in his restaurant or dinner party.

  46. Zachary says:

    What I don’t get is why didn’t the farmers process their products or send it to someone to process? I get that people won’t buy imperfect produce, but why not make tomato sauce rather than throw tomatoes away? Why not creamed corn instead of throwing the corn away? Can’t they process the chickens? Can’t they flash freeze the fish? It seems that there are already perfectly good technical solutions to preserve food that they aren’t using. Couldn’t they at least ask?

    • EQSATUB says:

      I think a lot of the problem is caused by what small businesses and farmers are allowed to do. It’s one thing to sell whole chickens that have been minimally processed. Selling the parts, however, requires a whole new set of certifications. Plus, in organic markets, parts sell a LOT less than whole, since people perceive that whole = best (and I agree to a certain extent, but will buy parts when I just don’t feel like boning a chicken that day). There’s only so much you can keep for personal use, so that leaves you with a lot of waste that “nobody” wants and is cost-prohibitive to process for further sale.

      Now, that being said, I AM surprised these farmers and merchants aren’t calling CHEFS and restaurants and offering them a bargain. The veggies might not sell in a store, but a good chef will know how to make them work.

      • Barb says:

        Good point re. regulations. There are a lot of things that farmers are not allowed to do that seem ridiculous to most of us.

        Another issue is the mass production and mass quantities that industrial agriculture and large supermarkets deal with. I just started reading the book Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook, one point he makes is that canned tomatoes come from CA, fresh tomatoes come from FL. On the scale theese businesses grow, you can’t take the imperfect tomatoes from FL and process them into cans — the industry doesn’t work that way. And of course they have no flavor, which is one of his main points…

        I’m so psyched the FN is touching on a topic so important. Most of the messed up nature of food production is, I think, verboten, given the sponsors the FN relies on. It’s too bad that an entire network devoted to food is too reliant on making a profit to take on the political and economic issues that are associated with hunger, waste, inequality, and the horrendous treatment of both human workers and animals on factory farms.

        Anyway, I hope they re-air this show one more time, I missed it both times. Thanks for posting Jill.

  47. Jason says:

    I laughed so hard at Oscar in the trophy trash can!

  48. Jane says:

    Kudos to FN for offering an intelligent and thought-provoking show. I just watched it on YT and this has to be the best and most interesting show offered by FN in more than a few years.

  49. Pat says:

    For anyone who missed this show the 1st time around, FN is reairing it now. It started at 5 PM EST.

  50. Chris says:

    The re-airing of the show tonight was followed by an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives–so after an hour of hearing about wasting food, the first image I saw was a bunch of enormous people stuffing their faces with oversize tacos. Ah, America.

  51. pennhead says:

    Speaking eliminating waste, Anne Burrell’s iPhone cover is made from old pairs of Mario Batali’s shoes.

  52. Blue Piano says:

    Wow, a show with some intelligence and redeeming social value on The Food Network. What happened? Did Bob Tuschman get a DUI or get busted for drugs and have to perform community service?

  53. Ron says:

    Claire Robinson makes my penis smile!

  54. Sweet P says:

    I think it’s interesting how they try to blame the majority on consumers, though. Look, if they didn’t only bring to market “perfect” unblemished produce then we would be used to it. Also, they dump food before it even comes to us. Last, remember the big stink raised about two years ago about the farmers who dumped oranges and strawberries, + other fruits/vegs because they rather not ‘waste’ gas delivering and therefore lose more money than take to market produce that would’ve sold at less dollars than they wanted? All that AFTER they recieved our tax funded grants btw.

    • ichii says:

      this is somewhat true, but i think it’s a fifty/fifty blame. everyone has been to the grocery store and picked over fruit because it was bruised. everyone has seen that discounted cut of meat that they just wont buy because it isn’t cut “right” and it ends up never selling. we are spoiled consumers who do, in fact, turn our noses up at products that we don’t feel are perfect. in turn, the grocery stores lose money on the items that are slightly defective that no one will buy, or will only buy at a steep discount. so when they go to restock, they in turn demand from the farmers and wholesalers that the products be more closely scrutinized and to have a higher threshold of rejection. the result is that tons of food are thrown out because stores don’t buy them; and stores don’t buy them because we don’t want them. it’s a global responsibility type deal, and no one side is any more or less to blame than the other.

      • Beets Are Nature's Candy says:

        I hate those old broads who insist on pawing through every bag of grapes or box of strawberries in the damn store so they can get the “perfect” bunch. Thanks, Grandma Moses… now I don’t want to buy any grapes because they’re all covered with a film of Bengay.

  55. Heather says:

    Here, waste food gets donated to local soup kitchens. I’m not sure why other places wouldn’t do the same.

    • Pamela M says:

      While I don’t mean to speak for every situation, and I’m sure there are other factors at play in some cases, I will say that many times it comes down to laziness and lack of interest in the problem.

      I used to work somewhere where we would throw out a case full of pastries each night because they couldn’t be sold after the first day. The employees used to take some home, mostly out of guilt, but really there are only so many pastries one can eat. Not the most nutritive food of course, but a wonderful treat that might really make someone visiting a soup kitchen smile!

      So why wasn’t the food being donated, I asked? It was commercially prepared and approved for sale, so it’s not like there were any legal barriers. (Homemade goods, for instance, often can’t be distributed legally by food banks.) I was told that they were thrown in the trash because “none of the food banks would come pick them up.” Well, come on! They are overstretched as it is. Surely the (large, profitable) company could have ponied up the tiny bit of extra cash it might take to reimburse a willing employee to drop the stuff off somewhere.

      I ended up volunteering to do it myself whenever I could, but that was just scratching the surface. The company clearly thought it was easier to just dump the stuff, and that was where the thought process ended.

  56. Kari says:

    So…. I was all inspired to buy a blemished red bell pepper at the store because of this show, then when I got it home and cut it open it was full of black mold. WTF, karma?

  57. anton figg says:

    The pic of Alex and Anne hugging made me super hor—I mean hungry…

  58. Adele says:

    I want to buy a DVD of the “The Big Waste”. I want to share this with my Garden Club and the Racine”Green Team”. Tell me ho I can buy a DVD.??

  59. Jenne says:

    Loved the show, horrified at the waste in this country, and this was the only time I could handle either Anne Burrell (who I want to shoot everytime she makes that ugly growly noise on her cooking show) or Alex Guarneschelli (who gives “I hope your dog gets cancer and die” looks to hapless contestants on Chopped).

  60. Ian says:

    Wow. Just wow. Had to find this on youtube. Such a great show. Thanks for the recap! Got bumped here by Alton Brown, actually!

  61. perchprincess says:

    There is a law that protects grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants from law suits as a result of food donation programs. Watch the documentary ‘dive” and you will get a full understanding of the issue.

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