One restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is turning the idea of leftovers into a gourmet endeavor. 21 Greenpoint is a trendy new farm-to-table restaurant in the up and coming Brooklyn neighborhood that is the restaurant’s namesake. But amidst all the fabulous eateries rolling into Greenpoint, this one does something particularly special: Their weekly Sunday dinner service is designed specifically around waste reduction.
The restaurant opened near Transmitter Park in September of 2016 by Homer Murray (son of actor Bill Murray) and Syd Silver. The pair brought on chef Sean Telo to run the kitchen, and run it he has: offering farm-to-table fare that’s 100 percent fresh and inspired by cuisine from all over the world.
Telo started his “21 Sunday” meals as a way to ensure leftover ingredients from the week don’t end up in the trash. That could be anything from a filet of fish to greens that just haven’t sold during previous mealtimes—not quite carrot tops or beet peels, but rather excess food that went unordered. Telo tries to make all the dishes as “dietary restriction-friendly as possible” and vegetarian-friendly, he told Food Republic.
For $21, Telo serves up a five-course meal comprised entirely out of that excess food. “We get to use everything we already have in house,” Telo told Food Republic. “We don’t have to order anything for it. It’s really fun for the guests — they can come in, sit down, relax and not make any choices. And it’s inexpensive.”
Inexpensive is an understatement in a city where similar gimmicks are sold for many times that amount. Spending $21 for a five-course meal is astoundingly affordable, given the extent of the meal. And just because the ingredients are excess items initially conceived for different dishes, that doesn’t mean Telo is skimping on flavor.
Freshness is everything to 21 Greenpoint’s head chef, who sources the restaurant’s food from farms in Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. But those just-picked, just-butchered foods being sold for dinner on Sundays would lose some of their greatness come the following week. And that’s where 21 Sunday comes in.
For a restaurant with so much emphasis on sourcing local food and optimizing whole ingredients that are totally unprocessed, unpackaged, and low on the carbon emissions expelled in international food transport, chemical fertilizers, and packaging, reducing waste on the other end was a no-brainer.
“I think everybody recognizes food waste as an issue, but it’s not something that’s very popular to talk about,”Telo told Food Republic. “There’s a lot more being done about it, and some restaurants use that as their focus, but it’s not a popular thing, and I don’t know why. It’s a great thing to focus your restaurant on, it’s less expensive for you to operate and it’s better for everyone in general.”