The Brooklyn, New York, restaurant Okonomi uses ingredients so efficiently it only tosses out one or two garbage bags a day. Fred Katayama reports.
Diners here are drinking to this: sustainability. This 12-seat restaurant in Brooklyn, New York epitomizes economy. Hardly anything goes to waste at Michelin-listed Okonomi. Chef and owner Yuji Haraguchi worships "mottainai". That's the Japanese concept of avoiding waste. He procures locally caught fish from his own fish shop. His chefs use the meat for Okonomi's Japanese-style breakfast and lunch. They simmer the head and bones for ramen stock that they'll serve at dinner. Less than one-tenth of the food Haraguchi cooks up heads for the garbage can. SOUNDBITE: YUJI HARAGUCHI, CHEF AND OWNER, OKONOMI/YUJI RAMEN, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "After working in the fish industry for so many years, I just realized that there are so many parts of fish that are not being utilized which is the head and the bones mostly." The Environmental Protection Agency says more food fills incinerators than any other material. Food makes up a fifth of the waste stream. Haraguchi is doing his part and thinks others can learn from his example. He says restaurants can cut waste by offering more flexible menus like his that feature ingredients available that day. SOUNDBITE: YUJI HARAGUCHI, CHEF AND OWNER, OKONOMI/YUJI RAMEN, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "So whatever comes in we try to serve it, and the extra side dishes - if we have some extra parts, we try to run it so that what we receive are 100 percent used. So that menu flexibility I think will be the key." The restaurant turns into a noodle shop at night called Yuji Ramen. Diners like Brigitte Hamadey, a regular, and Dmitry Toubolets say they're attracted by Haraguchi's credo as well as his cuisine. SOUNDBITE: BRIGITTE HAMADEY, DINER, YUJI RAMEN, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The food is obviously amazing, fresh, and impeccable. But also the philosophy that they use all the food in term of during the brunch they prepare excellent fish and then they use the same fish bones to make the ramen for the evening meals. And it feels like a community here." SOUNDBITE: DMITRY TOUBOLETS, DINER, YUJI RAMEN, (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's not that we seek these places out. But it's a nice touch. And I think it define the thought process behind the meal, and it doesn't make the taste weird in any way." After serving 69 breakfast meals and 59 bowls of ramen to 130 diners on a recent day, a staffer tossed out just one garbage bag - a small footprint for a restaurant with imperishable dreams.