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‘Top Chef’ Alum Marcel Vigneron Shares Genius Tips for Zero-Waste Cooking

Chef Marcel Vigneron
Charred CarrotsSydney Yorkshire

Scrappy thinking! Washington state native Marcel Vigneron grew up highly eco-conscious. “We were always gardening and being mindful the environment and of our
footprint,” says the Bravo alum, who hails from Bainbridge Island. So while Earth Day (April 22) was “always a big deal,” eco-consciousness became “kind of a way of life.” Once Vigneron began running his own kitchens, he looked for ways to meld these lessons from his upbringing with his culinary training.

Chef Marcel Vigneron
Chef Marcel Vigneron Jake Rosenberg

At his L.A. restaurants, Wolf and Beefsteak, the Top Chef alum, 36, focuses on plant-based cooking that utilizes all parts of the ingredients — which saves money, keeps the planet healthy and shows respect for the products and ­farmers. “Your food tastes better too,” says Vigneron of zero-waste cooking. “You get a more well-rounded flavor.”

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Another benefit: beaucoup nutrition. “There’s actually a concept called food synergy,” Vigneron explains.”When you eat the skin of a tomato or an apple with the flesh,
you’re receiving more vitamins and nutrients through the combination of the two
than if you’d peeled it and eaten the flesh alone.” The idea helped inspire a recipe for charred carrots, one of the most popular dishes at Wolf. (Get the recipe below.)

To give zero-waste cooking a try at home, Vigneron recommends buying organic produce as a jumping-off point to eliminate concerns about pesticides that could potentially be on the product’s skin. From there, he suggests broccoli, romanesco and cauliflower, in addition to carrots. “One of my favorite parts is the stem,” he says. “I love the natural texture. You can slice them up into discs to roast along with the florets — just leave them in a bit longer.” Passion fruit also lends itself well to no-waste cooking since the skin can be boiled to make tea.

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Still, Vigeron is quick to point out that research is key since some plant parts aren’t actually edible: “I got some rhubarb recently, and one of my super young cooks — I
call him a ‘padawan’ — always tries to taste stuff, which is great, but he
comes over to me and says, ‘My tongue feels really weird.’ I asked him what he
ate, and he said he’d tasted the rhubarb leaf… and I told him, ‘That stuff is
super toxic!’” Lesson learned!

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Charred Carrots

Serves 4

5 bunches rainbow baby carrots

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

Sea salt (preferably Real Salt)

1 cup hazelnuts

2 avocados

1 lime, juiced and zested

1 tablet activated charcoal (optional)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch cilantro

Optional garnishes: 1 head romanesco, passion fruit

  1. Preheat broiler. Cut off the carrot tops, leaving ¼-inch stem; reserve the tops for garnish. Clean the -unpeeled carrots with water and sponge, dry gently and toss with -coconut oil to coat, about 3 tablespoons. Season with sea salt and arrange on a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Broil until charred, about 5 to 8 minutes, turning midway through. Set aside.
  2. If using the romanesco, quarter the head with stem and leaves intact. Toss with coconut oil to coat, and season with sea salt. Broil until charred, about 8 to 10 minutes, tossing midway through cooking. Allow to cool, then cut into florets and reserve.
  3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Toss the hazelnuts with coconut oil to coat. Bake until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool, then chop the hazelnuts and set aside.
  4. Cut each avocado in half; remove seeds and reserve. Cut the halves into quarters and take off the inedible skin. In a blender, puree the avocados with most of the lime juice, a pinch of salt, the activated charcoal and the olive oil until smooth.
  5. For each plate: Spoon on the avocado puree, then arrange a few pieces of the romanesco, if using. Stack the carrots, with a few ends turned vertically. Garnish with a few pieces of the carrot top. Drizzle with lime juice and sprinkle a small amount of the zest. Using a microplane or fine box grater, grate 3 to 4 strokes of the avocado seed. Finish with chopped cilantro.

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