The no-waste chef

Chef Lawrence Eells on respecting food

Food Waste Champion

Through 35 years working in hotels and restaurants across the US, Chef Lawrence (Larry) Eells has pursued a passion for fine dining focused on fresh, seasonal ingredients. His philosophy lies in maximizing the natural potential of high-quality ingredients and serving them with detail and care. And for Chef Larry, that means cutting out the waste.

How did you become a chef?
I always liked being around food. My dad liked to cook—he set a great example for me. We traveled, especially in Asia; I was exposed to a lot of different cuisines early on. But I wanted to be an explorer. I wanted to be in the Coast Guard, live by the ocean, see marine life, protect the water. Then I wanted to be an artist. I went to college for art and ended up in the kitchen, thinking I could craft art through food.

What inspired you to start reducing food waste?
WWF ran a pilot project with my hotel in Orlando—a rapid prototyping workshop to brainstorm and test concepts to reduce waste created at buffets. I knew intuitively that there’s so much waste. But once you put a metric to it, you go into shock. And when you come out the other side, you know: I’ve gotta change. We have to exercise our influence and make the changes in our lives that make the difference. This is a start.

What can we do?
It starts at home. Buying groceries, making the best use of everything and without waste. It’s difficult. When you think about how much we each waste, and then multiply that by all the families! But everyone thought recycling was hard in the ’90s. And now we can’t imagine living somewhere without curbside pickup.

What have you learned?
Food is too cheap. It doesn’t represent the true value of food
on a global scale—of the water, the labor, the resources required to bring it to market. We’d all be living on roots [in winter] if we had to eat locally. We need to respect food, and not waste it.

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