Chef Striving to Revolutionize Composting in the Restaurant Industry

A chef that doesn’t give a damn about the environment ain’t a chef to me. I respect the man behind the flame who isn’t reckless with sourcing his ingredients and produce. Enter Executive Chef Kevin Templeton. Five organizations received recognition from the San Diego Food System Alliance’s inaugural Emies Awards for Food Waste Practices recently, one of which is San Diego’s barleymash, run by Templeton. He’s revolutionizing the way San Diego chefs think about food scraps.

Without oxygen, food decomposing in landfills will release methane gas, which is harmful to the environment and is high as a global warming potential, 21 times that of carbon dioxide, ranking it as one of the worst greenhouse gases.

“Compost is an essential ingredient in sustainable gardening and farming,” said Claire Groebner of Olivewood Gardens. “Replete with nutrients necessary for healthy plant growth, compost is an alternative to synthetic fertilizers. Additionally, it improves the porosity and structure of the soil, helps to retain moisture, and attracts beneficial soil life that supports plant health.”

Templeton’s drive for sustainability and food waste reduction is making movement in San Diego. Working with Olivewood Gardens, he and his team created a way to collect food scraps, minimize waste and give back to the environment. Walking through the back of barleymash’s kitchen, buckets for scraps are visible throughout. At the end of each week, unused food is collected and packaged for delivery to the farm in National City.

“We move roughly 500 to 600 pounds a week,” said Templeton. “Anything we aren’t able to reuse in our menu, we compost. For instance, the main dish might be a beautiful pork roast but we aren’t able to use the ends. We’ll top our Iron Fries with the best pieces of pork and toss what is unusable into our compost bins. We believe everything you take should be given back tenfold.”

The team at barleymash purchases sustainable agriculture and practices waste prevention. All of the seafood served at the establishment is fished properly to protect the ocean. The meat and chicken is sourced and only purchased when the products are natural and cruelty-free.

“We don’t mess around here,” said Templeton. “We might not be able to use all of the bones or parts of fish, but we work with our seafood company to freeze the would-be-waste and turn it into a nutrient-rich cat food. How cool is that?”

In addition to dropping off the composted scraps himself, Templeton teaches classes to children from time-to-time regarding waste management, recycling and cooking.

“At Olivewood Gardens, we teach children and adults about the importance of recycling and reusing our resources, and we love when Chef Kevin is leading the discussion,” said Groebner. “Composting allows us to take waste and turn it into a usable, sustainable product. Food scraps become compost, which grows more food. It is the ultimate closed loop system.”

“Composting is an easy way to grow beautiful produce without using a ton of fertilizer – and it is completely natural,” said Templeton. “There are other chefs out there who are as passionate as I am – if not more so. One of the pioneers in my book is my good friend and Executive Chef Matt Gordon of Urban Solace. He lives, eats and breaths for this.”

Templeton hopes San Diego will soon make it mandatory for restaurants to compost food scraps.

“It may be complex, but composting is necessary,” he said. “One of my favorite days of the week is going out and visiting the farm to drop off our scraps. Walking around, breathing in the clean air and casting my eyes over the beautiful vegetation – that’s a big part of being a chef. Appreciating where your food comes from.”

  • Veda Luna


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