fighting food waste in Montreal | Will Travel for Food

Chef Guillaume Cantin is fighting food waste in Montreal with La Transformerie

I went on a very interesting tour of La Transformerie yesterday. It’s a non-profit organization started by four friends, including chef Guillaume Cantin formerly of Les 400 coups. La Transformerie’s aim is to raise awareness and reduce food waste. They’re starting this adventure in the Rosemont-Petite Patrie neighbourhood by working in close partnership with 5 of its grocery stores and produce purveyors.

Dumpster diving

La Transformerie was born when co-initiator Thibault Renouf challenged chef Cantin to cook a gastronomic dinner made from food salvaged from the “containers” of grocery stores. Although the idea of dumpster diving did not appeal to the chef at first, all 4 co-initiators were surprised by the quantity and quality of the food recovered.

fighting food waste in Montreal | Will Travel for Food

Boxes of unsold fruit and vegetables recuperated by La Transformerie

The process

Every Sunday, a volunteer driver collects from the 5 participating stores, including Chez Nino at the Jean Talon Market. They picked Sundays because none of the other organizations collect the unwanted food on Fridays or Saturdays. The Transformerie’s weekly rounds amount to 700-800 kilos of unwanted food from fruit and veggies to meat, fish, bread and more. Let me say it again:

(only) 5 stores and (only) 2 days = 700-800 kilos of rejected food.

I’m sure you can do the astounding math if we were to calculate all the food waste from all the Montreal stores every day of the week. Most of the fruit and vegetables are rejected because they’re too ripe or not perfect enough. From what I witnessed while observing the dozens of cases piled up in the Transformerie facilities inside La Maisonnette des Parents, none of it would’ve been thrown away if it were in my kitchen. As a consumer, we don’t even get to decide if we’d like to buy these perfectly imperfect ripe fruit and vegetables. They are automatically taken off the shelves.

Sorting the haul

Once the weekly haul arrives at the Transformerie facilities, it’s sorted out (by volunteers):

75% of it gets redistributed to individuals in need;

20% of it gets transformed;

5% of it gets discarded.

So in fact, only 5% of everything collected is truly inedible.

fighting food waste in Montreal | Will Travel for Food

Les rescapés spreads are made with recuperated fruit and vegetables {photo © Bénédicte Brocard}

The fruit is cooked into 6 (soon to be 7) delicious spreads, with about 50% less sugar than your average jam: pear ginger, strawberry basil, apple pie, mango and creoles spices, citrus marmelade and wild berries cinnamon. Watch for their banana caramel spread coming soon. These spreads are available at 5 stores for now (the list is on their website) but will soon be available in many more shops. If you see them, buy them. You’ll be lending a hand and contributing to reducing food waste and you’ll also be purchasing a delicious spread. You can also lend a hand by volunteering if you wish, since La Transformerie depends greatly on volunteers. It’s a great way to teach kids about food waste and they’re welcome as volunteers. Contact Marie, their coordinator, to find out how you can help.

When asked what his ultimate goal was, chef Cantin replied: “Our goal is to cease to exist.” He’s hopeful that some day, the food chain will learn to stop wasting food and La Transformerie will no longer have a purpose. One can only hope.

I urge you to sign this petition to demand a public consultation so that the city of Montreal can get inspired and adopt measures (regulatory changes, action plans, incentives, etc.) to eliminate the waste and destruction of food still fit for consumption by businesses, institutions and industries. 

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