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Reducing Food Waste And Reinventing The Cauliflower: MasterChef's Ben Trobbiani's Latest Passion Project

Partnering with South Australia's Metta Sol, former MasterChef contestant Ben Trobbiani has created his Cauliflower-Power box, showcasing the humble veggie's versatility and highlighting how easy it is to reduce food waste.

Speaking to 10 daily over the phone from his home in South Australia, Ben reflected on how the industry has changed in just a short amount of weeks.

With the coronavirus pandemic introducing social distancing restrictions across the world, many restaurants were forced to either close or pivot to takeaway options, something Ben says was not as easy as it sounds.

"It's a different experience, there's a lot of food that doesn't translate to takeaway at all, food that doesn't travel well," Ben said.

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There’s something magical about the first dish you ever make all by yourself, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly how it looked in the recipe’s glossy picture.

And it's true, we've all had that moment of bittersweet joy when we've ordered hot chips takeaway only to get them home to find limp, soft logs of potato rather than the crispy fries we were dreaming of.

"But it's not just deciding to offer takeaway," Ben continued,  explaining that even the way most kitchens are set-up has to be re-thought to now function for an influx of takeaway options. Rather than dealing with plates and a pass, staff are looking at re-configuring to find more space for packaging.

One restaurant that's made the jump to offering takeaway is South Australian plant-based Vietnamese eatery Metta Sol, which Ben has partnered with to release his Cauliflower-Power box.

The box not only features a wholly plant-based offering of a semi-sourdough roll with crispy fried cauliflower, cucumber, pickles, coriander and a sweet chilli sauce, but Ben also used every part of the veggie to add a Cauliflower leaf and stem salad and salt and vinegar veggie crisps on the side.

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It’s the show that introduced the joy (and terror) of creating a towering croquembouche, and gave us the authority to discuss the merits of using a sous-vide bath or a blast chiller.

It's a twofold offering that showcases how easy it is to use every part of a veggie, as well as offering an alternate for vegans, vegetarians or carnivores looking to lower their meat intake.

While he's not a vegan himself, Ben said, "I do think vegans are better people than meat-eaters.

"Matt Preston put the name out there, 'flexitarians'", he said, "which is leaning towards trying to eat vegetarian or vegan at least once a week, which I do for mostly environmental reasons."

Hoping to offer a little insight into just how easy it is to reduce food waste, Ben's Cauliflower box is also zero waste -- nothing edible goes in the bin.

"I know everyone uses the nice, white fluffy bits but let's use the stems, the leaves and things like that -- nourish yourself with everything which will a) reduce your carbon footprint and b) your grocery bill as well."

Ben offered up some other hot tips for reducing food waste at home. Firstly, if you're able to, introducing a composting bin into your home.

"It sounds silly but it will reduce your general wastage and you'll make something useful you can use to grow veggies," he said.

Secondly, re-thinking the parts of veg that you'd otherwise throw out -- like roasting cauliflower leaves to create crunchy chips.

"Pumpkin's also really versatile -- the skin is really delicious and you can either leave it on when roasting a chunk of pumpkin it goes all soft. Or you can peel it off, put it in the oven at like 160 and it'll crisp up like little chips."

Similarly pumpkin seeds can be roasted and used as a snack or garnish.

Another tip was to keep your fruit peels. "When you peel fruit for desserts and things like that, instead of throwing them out dip them in a simple syrup (one part water, one part sugar brought to the boil on the stove) and put them in the oven at about 100. They'll go kind of glassy, crispy and delicious."

This week Ben's also added a pay-by-donation dessert to go with the Cauliflower box, an apple and quince crumble with 100 percent of the donation going to Foodbank South Australia which he's an ambassador for and has been supporting Aussies throughout these trying times.

For anyone looking to indulge in Ben's box, they're available every Wednesday in May between 4 and 7pm, with more info on the Metta Sol website

Featured image: Instagram.