When I working in New York State at a small fine dining restaurant as a line cook, the Chef there was a temperamental old French chef who could curse a blue streak, you could hear the paint peeling off the wall when he got going. As a young cook it was a horrible experience to be told I was an “f**king idjit” for no reason what so ever and to have pots and pans thrown at me when he would go off the deep end. But I learned an amazing amount there about utilizing product that I would have thrown away, and it came in very handy later on in life for keeping my food cost down when I was an Executive Chef.
The Chef after every service would throw a plastic tarp down on the floor and upend all the garbage cans in the kitchen onto it. Then he would go in with rubber gloves and sort through the garbage. Anything he found in the garbage that could have been utilized in some way, he picked out and put into piles. Shrimp shells could have been used to make shrimp stock, tourneed potato peelings could have been saved and used for mashed potatoes the next day, mushroom stems could have been chopped up and used for Duxelle.
He was a big one for making stocks; he would make a meat stock with trimmings from chicken, fish, and pork; whatever meat by products were on hand. Vegetable stock was also a polyglot of things, trimmings from carrots, celery tops, onion skins and tomato pieces. All of his stocks had the most interesting flavors. When I went to the CIA later that year, we were trained to separate meat types to make stocks, but his stocks were always very good. In kitchens I later worked in, I made stocks in a similar way, this “everything” stock was a great base for soups and unique sauces.
Each station at the restaurant had its own garbage can, if the Chef found usable product in your garbage can after two weeks of being sorted, you were fired. The Chef was so obsessive about waste, that when you chopped parsley to be used for service, he would look over your shoulder to make sure you got every speck of chopped parley brushed into a bowl with a pastry bush. If you didn’t, you were likely to find your self getting whacked over the head with the cutting board.