Area chefs and mixologists took up the challenge of limiting food waste while cooking as they battled in a Chopped-style competition at Marriott International’s test kitchens in downtown Bethesda.
Marriott and the nonprofit Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg held the event Friday afternoon to conclude DMV Food Recovery Week with No Waste, Big Taste: A Rescued Food Cooking Competition & Reception at Marriott’s headquarters.
DMV Food Recovery Week, which highlighted the need for a more resilient food system through a series of events, was sponsored by Manna’s Community Food Rescue, the Montgomery County Food Council, the DC Food Recovery Working Group and the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council.
“This week’s events are really meant to provide people with practical information that they can apply in their business,” said Jenna Umbriac, director of programs for Manna Food Center, which focuses on ending hunger through food distribution, education and advocacy primarily in Montgomery County.
“The idea of thinking critically about your food, the planning of the purchasing of it, the storage of it and then the preparation of it; there are lots of points along that path where you can prevent unnecessary waste of food,” Umbriac said.
Marriot International has “been long-term partners of our community food rescue efforts,” said Jackie DeCarlo, executive director of Manna Food Center. “The company focuses on sustainability and volunteerism as part of their 360 initiative. They have really overlapped well with our efforts to fight food insecurity because we have tens of thousands of neighbors who need and appreciate the food that is made available through the [Community Food Rescue] network and that really resonates with Marriott.”
For Friday’s event, teams of professionals and amateur chefs and mixologists participated in a competition based on the popular Food Network show.
The first round of the competition involved mixology. Two local mixologists, Alfredo Espinoza of Marriott Bethesda Downtown and Marc Rios of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., competed.
The two battled against each other to show who could make the best mocktail with little waste in only 15 minutes using the mystery ingredient — apples.
For the cooking competition, three teams of chefs battled against each other to comprise a meal producing little waste in 30 minutes with the mystery ingredients of ramen noodles, cranberry sauce and mizuna greens.
Team one, comprised of Chef Young Choi of Marriott Bethesda Downtown and sous chef Susana Camarena of the nonprofit Tacombi Foundation, transformed the ingredients into a dish of stuffed eggplant and cranberry aioli.
Team two, comprised of Chef Justen Ries of Marriott’s Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor and sous chef Ruby Singh of the nonprofit Guru Nanak Foundation of America in Silver Spring, transformed the ingredients into a ravioli dish with sauteed cauliflower and a cranberry-based sauce.
Team three, comprised of Chef Phil Skerman of the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington and sous chef Truphena Choti of Afro Thrive Inc., transformed the ingredients to make a dish of pork sirloin served over ramen and topped with a cranberry sauce and mizuna greens.
The mixology round was won by Espinoza and team three were the winners for the cooking competition.
The overall goal of the competition was to show how little could be wasted when making a meal. Reducing food waste is only one of the ways Marriott is moving towards being more sustainable, according to company officials.
“We have a commitment to reduce our food waste by 50% and we set that goal really to ensure that we’re all looking forward in the direction that we want it to go but without having all the details of how we’re going to get there,” said Denise Naguib, Marriott International global vice president of sustainability and supplier diversity.
According to Naguib, Marriott is taking multiple steps to implement sustainability.
“What we really do is start with understanding the food that we are preparing that does not end up getting eaten, so understanding how we then reduce that food from being produced in the first place so that we’re not making more food than we need,” she said.
Other steps Naguib listed in moving toward increased sustainability were community donations and later working toward composting.