A wedding might be the last place you’d expect to eat food otherwise destined for the bin, but one group of talented chefs is transforming food waste into delicious canapés.
Real Junk Food Manchester intercepts surplus food before its thrown away and uses it to prepare gourmet meals. The social enterprise works closely with supermarkets, wholesalers and other food shops from around the city to serve in its pop-up restaurant and cafe on Oxford Street.
Its core team of chefs turn whatever food they get into meals, including for its regular fine dining evenings, with dishes ranging from Wiltshire ham and Cheddar gratin to lemon braised fennel with crushed potatoes.
Now, they’re turning its attention to creating gourmet food that can be served at weddings and other events as part of a new venture that founder Corin Bell, who is a sustainability campaigner, hopes will allow it to save two tonnes of surplus food every week - double its current rate.
“Food that is edible going to waste is not right,” Bell says. “Because it’s absolutely all food that would have gone to waste, from a sustainability point of view it is the lowest carbon buffet you could possibly find.”
Real Junk Food has already dabbled in outside catering for up to 500 guests but will now make that a core focus.
“I have two absolutely amazing chefs who basically play the biggest game of Ready Steady cook you have ever seen and every single day they develop an absolutely unique menu based on what we’ve got,” she says.
She hopes that expanding into commercial catering will help the team “generate an income” that will let it subsidise community focused catering for community groups, such as those that help feed vulnerable people and “where there’s either very little or no budget”.
It is also planning to cater a wedding next year, though because Bell says three or four a year is “about my limit because it’s a bit nerve wracking and so much responsibility”.
“When we’re catering an event or wedding we’ll ask if there is a theme or style of food they like and whether they want it hot, cold, as canapés, vegetarian or vegan. For example the first wedding we did, the ladies who got married liked Middle Eastern food, which is quite easy to stick to as it’s a spice palate - so we said we can’t guarantee what the food will be but we’ll run with it based on what we’ve got.”
Real Junk Food Manchester is closing its Oxford Street restaurant in August after almost a year in the same venue in order to focus on launching the new venture but will reopen with a permanent base over the coming months, she said.