Zero Waste Lunch at WasteExpo Showcases Potential of Leftover, Undesirable Foods

Something incredibly fun at WasteExpo each year is the Zero Waste Lunch that pairs fine dining with sustainability. This year was no different, but it came with a challenging twist as it was this executive chef’s first attempt at a zero-waste meal.

Gage Edwards, Content Producer

May 10, 2024

5 Min Read

Something incredibly fun at WasteExpo each year is the Zero Waste Lunch, which pairs fine dining with sustainability. This year was no different, but it came with a challenging twist: it was this executive chef’s first attempt at a zero-waste meal. Spoiler alert: he crushed it.

Dylan Matuschka, Executive Chef at the Las Vegas Convention, served up quite a delicious meal to a handful of members from the industry who were pleasantly seated at a dinner table inside a dumpster. The unique setting made the lunch interesting; the zero-waste meal was incredible.

For Matuschka, this was his first attempt at a zero-waste meal, but after working with Gordon Ramsay and Guy Fieri, this challenge was a breeze. To create the meal, Matuschka sourced ingredients from around the convention center that were going unused or would have been thrown away. For his dish, he sourced ends and tips of salmon used at the convention center for other meals, leftover lemons from the bars that typically slice too many to serve, and worked with familiar vegetables to blend down and strain into a soup.

The result was a three-course meal consisting of tomato and cucumber gazpacho with garlic crotons (made from hot dog buns), lemon butter-baked salmon with pureed purple cauliflower, root vegetables, arugula salad, and cilantro oil. To end the meal, a lemon meringue tart featured miniature crusts made from other broken crusts that were blended to make new, complete crusts.


“I really enjoyed it. It was challenging because you couldn’t really premeditate what you were looking to do based off the product you know you’re going to have on hand based on the events happening at the convention,” said Matuschka.

“I had to look at what crudites we had for that day, what scraps we would be getting off that. I had to look at the hot-fire kitchen to see what kind of proteins were going out for this event and what scraps I could pull from that. From there, I was able to piece [it] together.”

Matuschka maintains that it was a challenge, albeit it was a fun challenge, he delivered a meal that I am going to brag about to my fiancé for a long time.

From his experience working in different kitchens, Matuschka says some locations waste more food than others and the kitchen’s style usually determines it.

“The smaller the outlet, the less the waste,” said Matuschka. “A lot of times, fine dining outlets tend to have a little bit less waste because of a lot of their sale points are 100% utilization. You’re going to use the bone from the meats that you clan for your stocks, you’re going to try to cross-utilize all of your product.”

For Vegas restaurants, most food is bought and is already cut, meaning there is left knife work in the kitchen and less waste is created.

“There’s a lot of really good companies out here that will produce this [food] for you. They’ll dice the peppers, and they’ll utilize 100%. That’s their claim to fame. And anything that they can’t use gets sent to a pig farm,” said Matuschka.


Matuschka recommends that other kitchens adopt the cross-utilization used in fine-dining kitchens. He says that to help kitchens limit food waste, they need to develop menus that allow them to use the same product many different times. This not only reduces food waste but also limits food costs and helps with labor in the kitchen.

Not only would restaurant kitchens benefit from this, but home kitchens can utilize these same practices to reduce food waste and save money. Matuschka grocery shops every day, which is insane, but he does it with purpose and picks out foods that he plans to eat that day, saving from overbuying or buying foods that he may overlook due to his busy schedule.

For me, I have a problem with fruit, I let strawberries go bad in my fridge constantly. But, as long as they aren’t moldy, they have some use. Those undesirable-looking strawberries can be juiced and macerated for drinks or cooked in a simple syrup and make strawberry shortcake. The point is those ugly, soft strawberries still have plenty of uses. It may not taste as good as what Matuschka can do with food, but you’re keeping those strawberries out of the trash.

For Matuschka, WasteExpo was a learning experience, bringing him to the flames of his first zero-waste meal prep. He also visited a compost facility in North Vegas, where he learned about the struggles the location has with some of the products it receives.

“[I] learned what products are actually 100% compostable compared to ones that aren’t and why. I think the education I learned from [WasteExpo] has been really cool,” said Matuschka.

With the knowledge Matuschka gained from WasteExpo, he says it's going to be easier for him to find and use products that will help him limit waste in his kitchen.

The Zero Waste Lunch was a highlight of mine from WasteExpo 2024 and I’ll be looking forward to what Matuschka has in store for us next year. Although he was non-committal if Las Vegas has any nefarious restaurants like in The Menu, he did recommend several spots expo goers and vacationers could visit in Vegas, such as Nora’s Italian Cuisine for pasta which is located off the Strip, Herbs and Rye, which is a steakhouse with excellent craft cocktails, and Legends Oyster Bar which is a phenomenal seafood spot.

About the Author(s)

Gage Edwards

Content Producer, Waste360

Gage Edwards is a Content Producer at Waste360 and seasoned video editor.

Gage has spent the better part of 10 years creating content in various industries but mostly revolving around video games.

Gage loves video games, theme parks, and loathes littering.

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