Turning unwanted coconuts into 2000 curries, 10 tonnes of donated squash into soup, leftover egg yolks from 16,000 Black Star Pastry watermelon-strawberry cakes into banana curd and working out what to do with 800 kilograms of airplane food picked up from the domestic airport gate – these are just some of the things that Travis Harvey handles as executive chef of a food-rescue charity. Working at OzHarvest means he's had to be pretty creative: for instance, he takes the most wasted ingredient in Australia – bread – and transforms it into dishes like fried Lazarus bread or ramen noodles at OzHarvest's pop-up cafe at Gratia in Surry Hills. He's also encountered other inventive ways of saving waste, like Josh Niland's attempt to incorporate cobia fat and fish scales into a chocolate bar dessert. Harvey has also collaborated with high-profile talent, like Massimo Bottura and even Cookie Monster. Through initiatives like the CEO Cook-off and OzHarvest food truck, he's helped the charity send 90 million meals to people in need over its 14-year history.
Prior to his time at OzHarvest, he contributed to a stove-building project in Guatemala and endured Canberra restaurants that felt like episodes of Survivor. He even worked in kitchens that practise the very opposite of what he does today: extracting collagen from chicken wings, only to throw the wings out afterwards.
It was fascinating chatting to Travis – and make sure you check out his work at the OzHarvest Cafe pop-up, which is running at Gratia in Surry Hills until September.