Irish Chef Ralph Utto teaches households how to cut grocery bills while maintaining delicious and nutritious meals utilising surplus food. Combating mass hunger and food waste simultaneously
When “just a little bit of fun” begins to go viral and educate communities on the other side of the planet, it’s warming to know that you have a part to play in the betterment of our world.
Gracing us from Dublin, Ireland, Ralph is using his own time to teach folk how to cut their grocery bills to almost a quarter of the current price whilst spicing up the variety of foods, keeping it delicious and nutritious. Are you dreaming? No. No matter where you live, it’s a lot easier than you imagine.
“It’s all about being conscious.” Explains Ralph. Who famously uses surplus food in his recipes to end the paradox of mass hunger and simultaneous mass food waste.
“Unless you have a family of eight, you’re not eating three kilos of carrots, and if you throw away foods or goods, you’re throwing away money.
It’s unfortunate here in Ireland. There are a lot of situations where kids are in school and get a meal in school, but during the summer breaks, these kids are quite hungry because the families can’t afford to eat.”
Devoted father of two himself and unable to sit by and watch what a simple application of knowledge and awareness could easily eradicate, Ralph taught himself how to edit videos to communicate his message further. he shares advice on how to extend the leftovers, extend the shelf life of stored items, and alternative shopping locations to the go to supermarkets. Labelling his brain as ‘pickable by anyone’, Ralph Utto selflessly encourages curious cooks to message him with their questions and results.
Source – Instagram
“It’s very satisfying to see that you’re impacting people’s day-to-day life. You’re bringing in what they might not usually use, making them a lot more conscious about the process they’re cooking it with. It makes it much more enjoyable, and I focus very heavily on nutrition, not just tasty food.”
Surplus food is not food that is about to spoil. It’s food that has been either overgrown or exceeded the demand, therefore being tossed as waste. Or it might look a little bit wonky, or it could simply just be the wrong size for supermarket standards. This food can be bought for much less than you would pay in leading stores.
Supermarkets often charge per piece rather than per weight for vegetable items, resulting in consumer demand for larger food items to achieve the biggest bang for the buck.
How to curve that….
“It’s very easy, use what you need. Buying too much and throwing it out is not the right approach because you’re literally throwing money in the bin and you’re creating food waste. So the right idea is to be conscious at the time of purchase. I could not address that more.”
Ralf knows where the real bang for your buck can be found.
“Markets. I bought between 10 and 12 kgs worth of vegetables and fruit that were randomly selected and put in. It was three Euros! Wow.
It was insane because it was very little money to pay for the quantity of food that you were actually getting.
So what if was a bit weirdly shaped, or simply three apples that didn’t sell from the last batch of the vegetables of the fruit that they got in? I got heaps of bananas. The value of the number of bananas in that box would have already been more than those three Euros. If I had simply gone and bought these items individually, I would have definitely spent more. It’s a huge difference when you’re feeding people. It does mean going out of the way of your normal supermarket, but these places are easy to find.”
“You have farmers’ markets. There are loads of markets happening around the city (Dublin) and around the outskirts where you can go once a week. On a Saturday morning, you pick up your veg and stuff like that, and it’s the same farmers that are supplying the supermarkets with the perfectly shaped tariff.
There are also lots of markets on Facebook pages and Instagram pages where they tell you where they are going to be popping up with addresses and everything. And once you sign up to their page, you know where the next market will be.”
Australia also has an abundance of farmers’ markets and food recovery programs that offer delivery services and stores, warehouses or markets to visit directly. As Chef described above, they can be easily sourced at the click of a button.
Recently supermarkets in Australia rejected 2000kgs of celeriac for being too small, despite the majority of it being capable of yielding more than one dinner’s worth of cuttings. In this instance, the discarded vegetables were rescued by Farmers Pick, who famously home deliver boxes of discounted vegetables across VIC, NSW, and ACT, Australia.
Out of disgust and pity for the celeriac destined primarily for soup and at last landfill, the nurturing chef in him responded with a simple and delightful recipe that added some glitz and glamour to the root, opening up an explosion of new flavour that could be easily incorporated into a sea of home meals.
Source – Supplied
Ireland is much more environmentally conscious than many other regions, but it still wastes approximately 1.2 million tonnes of food annually. A rough 255,000 tonnes of that comes from households. As a country, they are binding together to reduce the issue.
The Minister for the Department of Agriculture and the Minister of the Department for Environment, climate and Communications have been actively involved in social and entrepreneurial development of food waste reduction efforts, such as that of Food Could. A travelling restaurant serving nutritious delights, taking advantage of the variety of surplus foods coming their way. Food Cloud has supported 200 million meals across 7,500 charities using perfect quality excess foods.
“FoodCloud had a major impact in Ireland as well as me especially. They take a lot of care of communities. So the less well-off people are benefiting a lot from what they are doing.” Ralf, who was the Head Chef of Food Cloud from its dawn until recent, continues to highlight the benefits of drinking a full drink from a straw in his resourceful and creative land; “I worked in a nightclub on weekends about eight years ago now, and back in the day when I started there, they were already using straws that were made out of dead washed up corals and dead sea shells and stuff like that. I don’t know the exact process of it, but they work, they are washable and biodegradable. We’re talking about eight years ago now that we’re doing this.” Ralf giggles in innocent satisfaction. “You’ve still got soggy cardboard ones.”
Down2Earth Materials is an Irish company that produces a range of packaging items, all wholly made from compostable recyclable materials, and achieve user satisfaction consistently through their content.
“Amazing company.” Ralf Beams. “They’re so friendly. If you call them they’ll, they’ll absolutely Be happy to help you in achieving compliance or achieving your desire of eliminating your waste or eliminating your plastic packaging. It’s a lovely company as well. The people, I had a lot of contact with them from different companies that I work with. They are lovely to talk to. They are a small company that’s distributing packaging to the whole country!”
The upscale of companies such as Down2Earth is essential so the accessibility of these items becomes more readily available to business owners on a broader map who see the benefits of the alternative.
Australia wastes a wild 7.6 million tonnes of food per year. If we were to put the salvageable parts of that wastage into monetary value and act with more awareness, many of our daily struggles could dissolve.
Thriving in the energy of this hurtling snowball of education, flavour, and collective consciousness, Ralph shares how he involves his children in the mindful cooking process in a way that sticks and benefits them.
“I love getting my kids involved! My kids have their own videos on my page.” He smiles proudly. “They both wanted to earn some money, so we made some chocolate chip cookies together. We ended up making packaging for them, and everything was recyclable. Then we went around the neighbourhood to see who wanted some freshly baked cookies. The girls made pocket money for themselves, and they got to learn about working and having the courage to go out and approach people.
It gives them that sense as well of “I made this, and I am gaining. I am achieving to have money in my pocket because I’ve put effort and work into something.” Now, it teaches the kids that money doesn’t fall from the trees and not everybody has access to it.”
Ralphs’s respect for food resonates through his videos, into the homes of thousands and back into the lands of many. Influencing creative exploration in the kitchen and conscious buying habits that affect the parties involved positively. The farmer sells their stock, consumers don’t waste their money, less rubbish goes to landfills, and new flavours are discovered. Exposing yourself to a broader range of vegetables and quality, suitably portioned-out meats is an act your body will love and thank you for.
The positive side effects that a diverse, well-rounded, organic (if you can) diet has on social behaviour, sleep, concentration and memory are outstanding. Your energy levels, gut health, and brain health can be vastly improved with the right ingredients on your plate, which he is eager to teach.
His actions as both a responsible Chef and caring, active citizen bring prosperity to households far and wide. The best advice he’s ever received that has helped him make such monumental bounds is:
“Clean as you go.
In the beginning, you’re like, Oh yeah, it makes sense that you have an area, so you don’t want dirt everywhere. But it goes into a big, organised and clean area. It gives you peace of mind, and that will allow you to fully focus and deliver the love that you want to put into a dish or an activity. Apply this in your day-to-day life, and it’s a lot easier to focus on the important things rather than focus on the main essentials in your life.”
With that, Ralph is now taking his motivation to Dublin Council, reorganising their state kitchens to be more efficient and resourceful across the board whilst continuing to cook the creativity into the world, saving a ton of money doing it and a ton of waste. You can reach him directly through his Social Media here.
Thank you, Chef Ralph Otto!
Resourceful tips from Chef that you can apply in your home:
“You peel the onion, keep the peels, and cook your onion to whatever meal you’re preparing. The skin of this onion. If you put that into boiling water for about 24 hours, you can take the skin out and dry it at about six degrees in the oven. Or if it’s sunny and warm enough, you can put it in the sun for a couple of hours and then naturally dry it.
Then if you add a little seasoning like paprika or salt and put it all in a grinder, you have an amazing rub for a meat seasoning. Super tasty. And it’s just using something that you could have just thrown away. Then, to go deeper, the water you have used to cook and wash that onion skin is full of calcium, copper, and magnesium. It’s amazing for plants. It’s like a Red Bull for plants. If you put that in your little house plants that are sitting on an old dark corner looking a bit sad, it’s brilliant.
It’s also good for keeping those little insects away from your houseplants. If you put some in a spray gun, it stops them from coming. Awesome. No chemicals.”
“My garden is at this point now I think it’s like 60/40 coffee/soil but it looks like wild out there!”