Industrial decoration and outdoor seating are all the rage in the restaurant world, so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to host a gourmet dinner inside a dumpster.
The six-course meal in Williamsburg, the foodie world’s answer to dumpster diving, was organized on June 28 and 29 by a graduate student who charged eager gourmands $50 a head for the privilege. The dumpster dinner was meant to raise awareness about the amount of perfectly edible food that gets tossed every day, its organizer said.
“This was an interesting, boots-on-the-ground way to inspire people and engage them in a conversation about wasting food,” said Joshua Treuhaft.
To drive the message home, the food on offer was made of ingredients that were bruised, stale, or overripe, donated by stores or bought at a deep discount.
The dumpster had previously been used for construction and not household trash, but it was still far from pristine, so Treuhaft built a deck over the floor, he said.
The space inside the trash bin was narrow, so Treuhaft had to build a custom table. Naturally, he assembled it from salvaged wood.
Some diners were apprehensive about eating in a giant trash receptacle, but in the end they had a blast, one attendee said.
“Cars kept stopping to look at us, and one guy climbed through his sunroof to take a picture,” said Bill Gordon, who was one of Treuhaft’s professors at the School of Visual Arts. “It was truly a unique experience.”
The menu included heirloom tomato gazpacho, carrot-green pesto on stale bread, and pickled kale stems.
The chef scrambled to come up with the menu because she did not know until a few days before the meal what the ingredients would be, she said. Treuhaft had the dumpster delivered to the street in front of her house so that she could prepare the six-course meal upstairs.
“There was no way we could have done any prep or cooking inside that dumpster,” said Celia Lam, who agreed to make the food in exchange for Treuhaft agreeing to donate the proceeds to the charity CulinaryCorps.
Since Treuhaft did not have a liquor license, he invited all of the diners up to Lam’s apartment to enjoy a cocktail before the meal.
“While we were eating, some cops came by and told some people who were sitting nearby on their stoop what to do, so it is a good thing we were not drinking,” Gordon said.
The dinner was part of a series of one-off dinners called the Salvage Supperclub, which Treuhaft said are an extension of his thesis on city gardening and a campaign to reduce food waste.
“We want to get our guests to stop being so snobbish and judgmental about the food they eat,” he said.
This was the first dumpster dinner and Treuhaft said it may be the last.
“It is a lot of work doing it inside a dumpster,” he said.