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Teresa Gubbins Makes a Great Point: Throwing Away Food at Fundraisers is Politically Incorrect

Gross. Photo by Marc Lee.

Last night the Chefs for Farmers dinner at the Highland Park Cafeteria was the talk of the town. Over 250 folks showed up to support farmers, raise money, and bow to local producers and everything organic. All the current politically correct buzzwords were in place until reporter Teresa Gubbins noticed the huge number of half-eaten plates left on the tables. She writes:

I didn’t eat. I was too stunned by the rampant waste. Given the nature of the crowd — one that seemed heavy on foodies — I was flabbergasted to see how much food got thrown away, and how little respect it seemed to show for the work the chefs did, and the very nature of the event itself, with its emphasis on farmers and reverence for food.

I thought the idea of holding the event in a cafeteria was a great idea–it could have been a teaching experience. Instead of piling on globs of food, the chefs should have dished out smaller tasting portions. One diner quipped: “I paid $92 and I’m going to get my money’s worth.” Dude, it’s a fundraiser. You aren’t supposed to get your money’s worth. Stay true to the movement, chefs. Gubbins, you rule #WINNING.

28 comments on “Teresa Gubbins Makes a Great Point: Throwing Away Food at Fundraisers is Politically Incorrect

  1. Donate the leftovers from people’s plates, as shown in the picture, the point of TG’s post? Gross.

    Food not dished out on plates/picked over, sure, no problem.

  2. NN and TG, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree on this one. The chefs really didn’t pile on “globs” of food. Some made only one small dish, some made two. Brian Luscher, for example, made a very small “liver and onions” dish (pictured in Andrew Chalk’s previous post), which took three bites to eat. He also made cabbage rolls that were about the size of a cigar. He gave each diner one. I think what happened was that there were so MANY chefs who wanted to get involved, that the sheer quantity made for an enormous amount of food. Even if they made one small dish there would still be at least 17 dishes to choose from.
    Did people take more than they could eat? Absolutely. But it’s tough to walk the line, see those chefs, and say “No, I don’t want to try that.” Consider this: if the courses had been plated and served separately (like they so often are at these events), would it have seemed so gluttonous? Maybe the answer is yes. But I don’t think it’s fair to say that diners showed little respect for the work the chefs did because they didn’t force themselves to consume every single piece of food put in front of them.
    The heart of the event was in the right place. Everyone (from what I could tell) had a great time and money was raised for the Family Place….Yes, I’m on the CFF committee, so you can hold that against me if you want!

  3. Great Point-We always try our best to make it a great event for everyone and this is something that we will addressed. Thanks for the insight, only makes us better.

  4. I’m with Sarah on this one. I actually posted just about the same thing over on TG’s original post. If we’re going to tackle gluttony, I’m not sure this is the right place to start.

  5. I really apreciate Sarah Eveans perspective. But… Having been there last night and both eaten way too much food and felt bad for discarding quite a bit of really good food too, I see the point you are making.
    Our party of 3 discussed trying to share some food so we weren’t taking so much, but with each person in our group making only one trip through the line and all going at the same time, there was no way to know what we might want to each take more than a bite of.
    This style of service was a neat change from the typical ballroom where you go separately to each food station. Perhaps each diner should have been given about 8 tickets each good for a small serving of food. Then a table of 3 could select almost every item offered. Additional servings could be sold for a couple $$ more. It would have still been gluttonous but would have slightly discouraged taking an item to sample only a small nibble.
    Iris – You and everyone else involved did a great job with this CFF event, and I anxiously await the next thing you come up with!

  6. I am also on the CFF committee and know that Iris is a true professional and has taken this to heart. I am not sure there were globs of food on any plate, but there was certainly an abundance. I am so very pleased that we were able to celebrate with the farmers and ranchers and raise a lot of cash for a well deserving organization, The Family Place.

  7. I think it’s silly to look for something negative to say about an event that is totally about bringing great local food into awareness, supporting local producers/farmers and benefit a worthy recipient of the proceeds.

    Iris – maybe next event, make certain that the Gleaning Network gets put on standby.

    Stunned by the ‘sour grapes’ article.

  8. Negative? Umm, don’t agree. glob=abundance. this is not sour grapes it is a fact. look at the wasted food. Shouldn’t part of the eat local respect the farmers, etc movement also include a healthy attitude toward portion control?

  9. Portion control doesn’t sound like the problem – 17 dishes to choose from sounds like the problem. I can see where everyone would want to try everything, and 17 courses sounds about 10 too many.

    My impression is that Teresa wasn’t trying to disparage the Chefs for Farmers charity fundraiser, she was just appalled by the amount of food she saw being thrown away and wasted, and commented on it. It bothered her conscience.

  10. Quick question… As food writers, do you eat everything on the plate when you review a restaurant? I’m pretty sure that most writers get multiple courses, and do not finish each plate.

  11. Thank you Matt and Iris for all of your hard work that contributes to worthwile causes. I know that it takes up valuable time and energy, and it is always appreciated.

  12. B_funk

    I believe some food writers in town also invite guests during reviews so they can try multiple dishes, reduce the amount they as food writers have to eat and have several diner’s input.

  13. I agree, they do bring friends to share.
    I’m just sad that anybody would publish something negative about a charity event.
    If grandma gives you a sweater at Christmas that you don’t like, you still put it on and smile when the photo is taken.

  14. People may only be motivated to part with their money and willing to spend and/or donate money to help society in exchange for something interesting in the form of tasty and unique calories. If that’s all it takes to get some Dallas people to get out of their house to be charitable, then so be it. It was a great event and I learned about The Pecan Lodge, the Honey Bee Guild and many other farms, products and artisans that are local to North Texas. This was quite a unique experience and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Perhaps if Dallas had more events like this, our local farmers and food producers would be so successful, they would have an overabundance of product to distribute to local food banks, shelters, and other charitable organizations, thus counteracting any perceived waste.

  15. I think Theresa has a point. Guests were asked to vote on a favorite dish and so felt compelled to take a little from each chef. Which quickly added up to a lot.
    As several people have already said, it was a great event. Lots of fun and lots of good food. Raised money and awareness for a good cause. But there was a lot of waste.

  16. The amount of waste produced is not anything new at a taster/grazer event. What is new: this was the first and only event where all of one’s cumulative waste could be observed upon one tray. I know y’all will be on the “waste watch” at the next event. See you over the trash cans on the 19th. Happy grand tasting!!!

  17. A new take on “food fight”. Almost funny if it wasn’t sad and silly too. Putting down a good event as if it stood for all the wasted food on the planet.

    If you really are interested in picking a fight about food – look at Monsanto and join the fight against the corruption of real food. How about the over 7,000 farmers in India who have committed suicide by drinking the very poison Monsanto makes them buy to put on their crops.

    If you want to pick a fight or say ‘shame on you’ to somebody, either go big or stay at home.

  18. I’m sorry, but I also think it is pretty silly to complain about half eaten portions at this event when we as a whole country toss away perfectly whole, edible and otherwise donatable food, every, single, day. Stand at the back of any grocery store, restaurant or school and you’ll see food waste that would boggle your mind. We try to get some of it to feed our chickens or compost here and there but there is so much everywhere, we could never get – or use it all. No one could – distribution is the issue, not an actual food shortage as a whole. The Gleaning Network does an excellent job of redistributing tons of food each year straight from the farm fields to the food pantries but without more organizations like hers, or more funding to expand hers, it is an impossible task.

    As a farmer who attended this event, I was not offended by the uneaten foods at the event. I was and continue to be flattered that so many chefs are trying so hard to find local food sources and welcome us onto their menus and at their tables. They make us feel like rockstars.

    From http://www.livescience.com/5919-americans-toss-40-percent-food.html “Last year, an international group estimated that up to 30 percent of food — worth about $48.3 billion — is wasted each year in the United States. That report concluded that despite food shortages in many countries, plenty of food is available to feed the world, it just doesn’t get where it needs to go.”

    Could we have had smaller portions on a few of the entrees, sure. And who knows what was done with what wasn’t served up – maybe it was donated, or otherwise eaten. I for one took my leftovers and it went straight into the tummy of a ever-hungry growing teenage boy, (who learned to heat up his food without a microwave and actually tasted it.)

    This was a wonderful event and I’m sad to see any negativity clouding it. Iris and company – great job! You can’t ever make everyone happy.

  19. Maybe next time, attendees can be given “X” number of tickets that can “pay” chefs/restaurant representatives for a portion of food. That way, only those who want the food will have a serving to eat, reducing some waste. People won’t necessarily overeat or overindulge in the event. Then the unserved leftovers can be packaged (and even frozen), then donated to an organization in need, like a women’s shelter. Just an idea.

  20. What none of you have mentioned is the fact that maybe some of the diners just didn’t care for some of the dishes they were served.

  21. I guess we’re now supposed to feel guilty for leaving something on our plates? If you don’t like something, or heaven forbid you’re full, force it on down before the food police catch you.

  22. I too sat on the committee and felt as this was a great event! If you go out to eat at any restaurant, you don’t always finish your plate and there is waste. There are so many events that allow you to taste food and drink great wine and never a word has been mentioned to waste on the samples. If someone wanted to get their money’s worth, that is fine. You don’t know if they spent the last $92 they owned to go to this event because someone in their family or one of their friends has had help from The Family Place. It was a great event and I am proud that I was able to help Iris and the team promote the event.