Chef Andrew Whitcomb has eliminated 95 percent of the waste at Brooklyn’s Colonie. To achieve that rate, the 2015 New York Rising Star Chef embraces old school, earth-sustaining, and food cost-lowering techniques.
In the fall, Whitcomb takes bruised and damaged apples that would otherwise be tossed and then turns them into vinegar. He lets apple juice naturally ferment for two months, turning it into a hard cider. Whitcomb then adds more fresh apple juice to the cider to create the mother for his vinegar. Later, he uses the mother to start other vinegar varieties: seaweed, mushroom scraps, oatmeal, herbs, berries, or even vegetables.“The sky is the limit,” says Whitcomb. But before any fermenting begins, the correct protocols must be in place. ““[In Brooklyn,] fermenting is a huge violation unless you have proper permits,” he cautions.
Then there are, of course, the apple cores, which Whitcomb cleverly turns into charcoal. Using a gasifier, he create a low-oxygen and high-temperature environment that slowly burns the cores into pure carbon chunks, ridding the coals water, hydrogen, and tar. Even after getting charred, the coal still possesses an apple-y fragrance that seeps into food. “You can make anything with carbon into charcoal,” he says. Apples are abundant in the fall, but for summertime, Whitcomb employs corncobs. “We always have a ton and they add a very sweet smokiness when used for grilling.”