When Bread’s Not Toast (and when it is)

Last week, I got to visit with Aaron French, better known as the Eco-Chef. Aaron French, the Eco-ChefAaron is the chef at the East Bay eatery The Sunny Side Cafe and an all-around green (and great) guy. Part of his eco sensitivity means cutting down waste in his kitchen.

To do that, Aaron has tried a few things over the years, cutting down on the portions of home fries served and letting people ask for seconds if they’d like more. He also lets diners choose between five options for those breakfast sides to make sure they get something they want to eat. And he’s cut down on the number of cheeses offered, because he couldn’t get certain ones in small enough quantities.

Before.But what I was most impressed by was the bread policy at the breakfast and lunch establishment. Today’s hamburger buns and French bread become tomorrow’s French toast. I had to see the latter to believe it.

The “Orange French Toast” repurposes the locally-baked poppy rolls into four slices of deliciousness. To do so, Aaron trims the top and bottoms of the roll, small sacrifices that are ultimately composted. Then after halving the roll, he dips them in orange-flavored batter and slaps them on the grill.

After.Aaron learned the hard way that he needs to use a wooden griddle press to flatten the rolls. Before he did, customers recognized that they were buns and complained. Funny, though, there are no complaints when people don’t notice that they are “hamburger rolls.”

[As an aside, specialty breads like hamburger buns and hot dog rolls are among the baked goods most commonly wasted.]

The menu describes the toast as coming from poppy bread, which doesn’t tell the entire story. Yet, when you think of it, that’s what it is. And since the bread is fresh and local, seems like a great idea to me (especially after enjoying this French toast). What do you think?

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  1. Laura
    Posted September 8, 2008 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    The name for French toast in French is “pain perdu”, which literally means “lost bread” or bread that would otherwise be lost because it was old and stale until dipped in batter. Seems only natural to reuse yesterday’s bread considering the origins of the dish.

  2. Rosa
    Posted September 8, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t complain about it! That’s what French Toast is for – using up stale bread. Just like bread pudding, and stuffing, and rusks (I was raised on hot-dog-bun rusk, but I’m told my Danish-immigrant great-grandmother preferred hard rye rusk with her coffee.) Also bruschetta, and croutons – there’s no excuse for the wasted bread you see in the dumpster of every bakery around here.

  3. Posted September 8, 2008 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi there! I am hosting the monthly Carnival of Trash on my blog, Fake Plastic Fish, on September 15, and I wonder if you would like to participate. Please check out the carnival sign up page (http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_4478.html) and the most recent Carnival of Trash (http://myzerowaste.com/2008/08/carnival-of-trash/) to get an idea what it’s about. It would be great to have a post about reducing food waste!

    Beth Terry

  4. Posted September 9, 2008 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    ditto all the above- sounds like the eating population needs some foodie education!

  5. Posted September 10, 2008 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Good use for good bread. Great french toast is always made from (at least) day-old bread…it soaks up more egg!

  6. Joy
    Posted September 11, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Love the idea, but why not use the trimmed pieces for bread crumbs? That’s what I do with the heel of a loaf or any dried out bread that doesn’t make it into a pudding or something. The crumbs can be used for anything (I add them to my veg “meatloaves” primarily). Unless the restaurant just can’t possibly use any breadcrumbs…
    And the drier the bread, the better for french toast, IMHO! :)

  7. Jonathan
    Posted September 11, 2008 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    That’s a good idea, Joy. I’m sure Aaron can find a nice use for bread crumbs. Do you have a preferred way to “make” them?

  8. Kristina
    Posted September 16, 2008 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Or you could use the trimmed pieces to make croutons. I cut them down to cubes, toss them with some kind of fat (olive oil or butter), fresh herbs and then bake until they’re nice and crunchy.

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