Three Blue Ducks is where the real food movement comes to life, in so many ways. The Farm at Byron Bay has become a place of pilgrimage for visitors to meet where their food comes from. For Chef Darren Robertson, that daily connection with the land that feeds us has garnered a heightened respect for his ingredients. We caught up with Darren on how that respect plays out on the plate, in the kitchen, and all the way back to the soil.

Using the whole food

“At Three Blue Ducks we try to use as much as we can of all the ingredients that come into our kitchen.” In some ways, it’s about appreciation for the farmers who have grown those ingredients too. When you know them, all of a sudden those ingredients become a bit more like a gift, and it would feel wrong to chuck half of what someone has grown for you. That’s why Darren tries to cook with the whole ingredients – skins, stalks, the green leafy stuff atop root vegetables, bones. These “scraps” can be perfectly delicious (and sometimes even better for you). And what’s most exciting is that people are getting it – the bone broth for example is a top seller at The Farm’s Produce Store.

Preserving is another tasty, tasty way Darren and the team make the most of the crop. “We preserve a fair amount of food too which definitely improves flavour, enhances nutrition and minimises waste, as it vastly improves the shelf life of our food.” The proof is in the pickle (seriously, try the pickled radishes).

Three Blue Ducks Ribs and Corn

The Ribs and Corn at Three Blue Ducks, using pickled cucumber skins

Not all restaurants have the same kind of respect for food though. “It’s mind blowing to see how much waste comes from restaurants,” Darren says. “I would love to see waste management in kitchens being taught in cooking schools, it’s such an important part of what we do but often is still overlooked.”

Re-imagining our waste future

Whatever doesn’t make it onto the plate or into the larder doesn’t have to go to landfill either. “We are pretty lucky being on a farm. The green waste is either fed to the pigs or turned into compost.” That compost then goes on to feed future crops, rather than rotting in landfill and contributing to climate change. At the moment, Darren’s compost is still quite young, so it’s not “accepting” citrus. But even then, the team have sparked up ingenious ways to preserve much of their lemon and lime peels. “We have just started drying our spent oranges now after juicing, which we then use as fire lighters for our BBQ.”

What if you don’t live on the farm? “At home we have a couple of worm farms for the green waste. Worms can process around half their body weight of our waste per day. They turn the waste into worm tea which is amazing for the garden, so even if you’re a pretty average gardener like me, you can turn your soil into nutrient rich garden of dreams!” Growing a garden vs growing a landfill heap – we know what we’d choose!

Before we get too gushy, Darren reminds us that he’s not alone in the waste movement. “We’ve been pretty inspired by Joost and the work he’s done to change the way we think about so called ‘waste.'” Darren has noticed these new ways of thinking have caught on in Byron too. “There are many community gardens which teach about growing food and composting.” Even small changes make a difference. The red bins in the council’s three coloured bin system is now labelled “landfill” rather than “general” waste, reminding residents where that waste is going. “Even the gesture of changing the labelling and frequency of landfill collection is changing how people manage their waste.”

So you know food waste is costing you, our farmers and the environment, but you’re sick of being spoon fed solutions that are good in theory, but don’t work when shit gets real.

Enter Youth Food Movement Australia’s SpoonLed series, where we’re inviting you to join us in giving food waste the flip. We’re gathering up the most exciting solutions that work with our social lives, from our community and leadership workshops in Sydney. Join the movement and eat by example with us!

Images: Ant Ong, Three Blue Ducks

Zo Zhou

Zo Zhou

Zo is the National Communications Manager and will basically never shut up about vegetables.