High above the crowds, food waste warrior pursues waste-avoidance with a passion - CulinArt Group

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High above the crowds, food waste warrior pursues waste-avoidance with a passion

NEW YORK, April 10, 2023—CulinArt Group Chef Manager Nick Apostolakos seems to have been born and bred to rescue food. In his operation—the dining service at a law firm in New York City with about 300 employees situated high above Sixth Avenue in a modern skyscraper—“absolutely nothing goes to waste,” he says.

Apostolakos’ appreciation for avoiding food waste stems to his youth. “As a child, I was curious to see how vegetables grow and what makes food and organic life the way it is,” he explains. He says he has witnessed the wasting of food throughout his culinary journey—in his own neighborhood, while attending culinary school, and especially when he first started working as a chef. “I knew I wanted to utilize absolutely everything, and I knew it would save product—and money—as well.”

As he gained experience, he quickly got into the habit of saving peels from carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables for use in stock, as garnish, even in steeping tea. Another example—drying out scraps of herbs and grinding them to make an herb paste. Such possibilities, he notes, are endless. “Cooking and preparing root-to-stem, always fresh, nothing canned or frozen, was my drive,” Apostolakos continues. “I have seen people using their knives to peel vegetables—in the long run, it’s a big waste. Sure, sending organic scraps to compost is beneficial, but, for me, my direction was to enhance the flavor of the food naturally.”

Together with these efforts, Apostolakos and the staff at the firm make use of the Waste Not system to fine-tune their practices and prove their effectiveness. Due in part to a less-than-full population and remote work schedules, he estimates waste at 1.5 to 2 pounds a week, sometimes less. Some customers do show an interest in how much waste was accumulated from, say, a weekly special, but the impact on the client is much greater, especially as inflation has gripped the industry. With Waste Not in place, “the client notices the right amount of food is being cooked on days that are busy and on days that are not busy,” he adds. “I always make sure to let the client know I am saving food to utilize [elsewhere] and how nothing is going to waste.”

For him, it seems Waste Not is a natural extension of his passion for not just food but food waste avoidance. “Waste Not is important in order to save food from going to waste,” he says, “but you also get to be creative in creating dishes with it.”

For example, one can turn strained fennel fronds, herb stems, vegetable tops and bottoms, and lemon tops and bottoms “into a nice soup stock,” Apostolakos adds. “Any leftover bread turns into bread pudding, crostini croutons for the salad bar, or sides of stuffing. And boiling pasta—instead of discarding the water, use it to start a sauce.”

His list of tactics goes on. “Broccoli stalks turn into a broccoli slaw, cauliflower stems and leaves, along with loose pieces, turn into cauliflower fried rice, and fruit peels, skins, and tops and bottoms can infuse water,” he explains.

Apostolakos is also motivated by the economic concerns he immediately faces. “With the challenge of rising prices of product,” he says, “utilizing and yielding waste helps yourself, your team—and the company.”

Shown in photo
Garden Vegetable Fagioli is just one of Chef Nick Apostolakos’ many creations crafted with food waste avoidance in mind.

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  • April 10, 2023
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What our clients are saying

“What a wonderful dinner we had tonight for our international families. The food was delicious and well presented as well.”

“Thank you for including me today in the food waste demonstration/[chef competition] and flattering me with the role of “judge.” I will proudly don the [Stop Food Waste Day] apron the next time I plan an “event” in our own kitchen. I think this is a very worthwhile cause and the statistics you read off are staggering. They, alone, can intimidate a home chef, let alone be the “driver’ for a professional one.”

“Thank you and your staff for all the care and thought you give CSW adults and students. You approach events with such care and elegance- I don’t know how you do it! Especially day after day. Please thank all your staff for their wonderful work and kind manner with all of us. Here is to a great year!”

“Many, and I do mean many, thanks for a great Parents Weekend.  I heard from so many happy parents and you all work very hard to make it happen.  In gratitude and kindness…”

“We are so thankful and so impressed by your immediate attention to our power outage. It was such a relief to see all the equipment and workers coming in within a few hours of the outage. Thank you for serving dinner to all [the] students in a very difficult circumstance. Please extend our thanks to your workers who braved cold weather to grill hamburgers and hotdogs.”

“With all the prep work from Winterim ramping up and classes continuing as usual, it's a busy time to be a Forman teacher. Imagine my delight, tired as I was, when I delved into the upscale-restaurant-quality chicken parmesan our dining hall served last night. Forman is all about support, and providing our students with a dinner of that quality is just as important a measure of support as anything that happens in a classroom.”

“I can’t thank your entire team enough for the outstanding service, food, displays, everything!  You are a master at detail, and because of that Adam and I were able to focus on the parents.  I know what a sacrifice pulling off a weekend like this means, we are so appreciative and grateful to you all for your talent and generosity.”

“I ALWAYS feel spoiled by the meal offerings at CSW (The Cambridge School of Weston) and am entirely grateful for it. As I eat today's delicious and lavish lunch (and think about yesterday's as well), I can't tell you how much I feel so well cared for here, both with the food and by the dining hall staff. CSW cares for us in so many ways, both big and small.”

“Thank You! Chef Budd [and team], you overcame a new online ordering system (and hundreds of labels daily!), provided creative and healthy menus, continued to connect with local farmers to incorporate locally sourced ingredients, and worked tirelessly to serve the school community on three campuses.  While it feels like you are all a little like the Wizard of Oz right now, working behind a curtain in a kitchen far away, we sense your smiles and your passion to deliver the best possible service during these trying times. We are all so grateful!”

“I will say that CulinArt has always been a very collaborative partner to T. Rowe Price, listening to our current needs and future goals and suggesting realistic and achievable strategies to meet those goals.  2020 was obviously no exception.  CulinArt also altered other areas of our OCS and pantry programs to create safer environments for all our associates. We can only thank you for your continued flexibility and innovative ideas through these difficult times.”

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