A journey to zero-waste cooking


A culinary revolution quietly unfolded in May, as OzHarvest, BioPak, and celebrity chef Alastair McLeod united for “Cooking for Change”- an inspiring zero-waste event that turned food rescue into a powerful act of sustainability and compassion.

In May, I had the opportunity to attend the meaningful ‘Cooking for Change’ event hosted by OzHarvest, BioPak, and celebrated Australian chef Alastair McLeod. Held at Suncoast Fresh in Rocklea, this zero-waste cooking event aimed to feed Brisbane’s most vulnerable communities while tackling the pressing issue of food waste. The event not only showcased innovative solutions but also underscored the importance of sustainability in the food service industry.

When I arrived at Suncoast Fresh, the energy and enthusiasm were palpable. The venue was buzzing with participants eager to learn about reducing food waste and creating nourishing meals from reclaimed ingredients. The event was part of OzHarvest’s Cooking for a Cause program, which rescues surplus food to prepare meals for those in need. This initiative has been pivotal in addressing food insecurity, which affects 3.7 million households in Australia annually.

Event participants listening to speakers in an outdoor space next to a kitchen.

Chef Alastair McLeod kicked off the event with a cooking demonstration, using ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste. Watching him transform these ingredients into delicious dishes was eye-opening (and mouth-watering). He emphasised the simplicity and affordability of creating nourishing meals with everyday products and seasonal produce. His message was clear: reducing food waste doesn’t require expensive or complicated ingredients, just a bit of creativity and mindfulness.

A great aspect of the event was learning about Compost Connect, Australia’s first national composting product stewardship scheme. This initiative aims to reduce the one million tonnes of organic waste produced by Australia’s food service industry each year. Compost Connect has already diverted 5,585 tonnes of organic waste from landfills, turning it into 3,909 tonnes of nutrient-rich compost and preventing the emission of 2,848 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

A chef and two volunteers preparing meals with reclaimed food, showcasing sustainable cooking practices.

The process of composting and its benefits were further elaborated on by Dickson Lee from Mallow Sustainability. He explained how composting reduces waste sent to landfill, combats climate change, improves soil health, and supports local food production. It was motivating to hear how composting could create a closed-loop system, where food waste is converted back into resources that benefit the environment and the community.

Throughout the day, I had the chance to participate in a hands-on cooking session, using reclaimed foods to prepare meals. It was a humbling experience to see the vast amount of ingredients that are often discarded. Working alongside OzHarvest chefs and volunteers, we created restaurant-quality meals that would later be delivered to charities around Brisbane.

A meal made from reclaimed ingredients served in a compostable container, sitting on a table.

One of the key takeaways from the event was the importance of education and awareness in driving change. By understanding the impact of our food choices and waste, we can contribute to a more sustainable and equitable food system.

The ‘Cooking for Change’ event was a powerful reminder of the collective effort required to address food waste and sustainability. It highlighted the innovative solutions already in place, the potential for further impact through community engagement and education and reinforced the importance of collaboration in creating meaningful change.

As I left Suncoast Fresh, I felt inspired and motivated to incorporate the lessons learned into my daily life, making a conscious effort to reduce waste and support more sustainable practices.

The author

Amy Goodwin-Webster

Amy is a communications specialist at Brisbane Sustainability Agency and is passionate about supporting people to live mindfully of the environment and changing climate –  all while constantly struggling to keep her plants alive. 

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