A chef whose delicious meals have been savoured by fine diners at top Michelin-starred restaurants has won 7 million views and 100K followers on TikTok from foodies keen to gobble up his tips on zero waste cooking.
Tristan Welch’s videos revealing kitchen secrets, such as how to turn sour milk into ricotta cheese and stale bread into delicious brownies, are a resounding hit with families keen to eat well despite UK inflation soaring to 10.1 per cent – its highest in 40 years.
Tristan, 43, who has worked in kitchens run by celebrity chefs including Gordon Ramsay and the late Gary Rhodes also has a ‘Rubbish Cooks’ dining experience on the first Monday of each month at his Cambridge restaurant, Parker’s Tavern, highlighting the importance of reducing food waste by using scraps and leftovers.
Tristan, who lives in Cambridge with his wife Susanne Welch, 45, a head of sales, and their children – twins Felix and Tintin, 13, and Monty, 10 – said: “If there is one thing I can do to give back, it’s to tell people how they can reduce food waste.
“With food prices soaring and the cost of living crisis leaving people with emptier and emptier pockets, this is more important than ever.
“This way we can all save a bit of money and maybe help to save the planet.”
Growing up in the Cambridgeshire countryside eating freshly grown peas and carrots in the summer and kale and leeks in the winter nurtured Tristan’s love of food.
Flourishing in his home economics classes and making his mother Susan Welch, 69, a former full-time mum, proud with his meals, he realised he had a talent for cooking.
He said: “My food made people happy which is why I fell in love with cooking.”
At catering college in 1996 he met the late Gary Rhodes – who fronted Masterchef – at a roadshow who, when Tristan asked him for a job, told him to call his kitchen and see if there was a spot for him.
Calling every month on the same day for four months, he was finally offered a day’s trial in London at City Rhodes restaurant in January 1997 – which soon after won a Michelin star.
Landing a job, he recalled how he would prepare nine boxes of spinach and three boxes of potatoes in a day, adding: “It just blew my mind, I was so enthusiastic and proud to be cooking in such a fantastic kitchen. It was one star Michelin.
“It just pushed my enthusiasm further.”
From there, his own star was on the rise, as he found work in other famous Michelin-starred restaurants ranging from London’s Le Gavroche to L’Arpège in Paris, France.
Also working at Scotland’s Glenapp Castle and at Petrus in south west London, he recalls how, as well as serving up delicacies for diners, he enjoyed using leftovers to cook-up tasty meals for staff.
He said: “Restaurants were quite wasteful back in the day, you’d only ever use the best bits.”
“I felt like a lot of food had gone to waste and a lot of potential flavour.”
He added: “We were allowed to cook whatever we wanted for management at the restaurant. It was an opportunity to showcase the chef and show what you could do.
“I thrived on the challenge, as it was something I could create myself. I started using up the scraps and bits and bobs that were left over.
“I remember using potato peel. I diced it and fried it up and added cheese to make raclette. It was just delicious.
“I’d make soup from fish bones. Just wonderful ways to use up the produce we had left.”
And, since opening Parker’s Tavern in 2018, Tristan has been keen to make his kitchen as close to zero waste as he can.
He said: “I am very proud and passionate about getting fresh ingredients, cooking them simply and making sure nothing goes to waste.”
It was with this philosophy in mind that he started his ‘Rubbish Cooks’ supper club, creating a menu using only ingredients that were destined for the bin, due to sell-by dates, dented packaging or being unpopular off-cuts or wonky products.
Asking for a £30 cover charge – which includes a £5 donation to Jimmy’s Night Shelter, a local charity providing help to homeless people in the area – he said: “In the end it’s just delicious food.
“It’s creative and out of the box but it’s great. It’s tasty and thoughtful.
“As we have been doing this, it blew my mind to discover that a third of the food we produce goes to waste, according to the UN.
“This really made me think it was important to make sure there were more hints, tips and tricks available to inspire people to think differently about how they prepare meals.”
Now, with inflation soaring, Tristan’s message is more important than ever, as he tries to show people how to fill their bellies without emptying their wallets.
And his TikTok account, launched in May 2022 under @chef_tristan_welch has seen interest skyrocket to more than 100K followers in just a few months.
In his 30 second videos he shows viewers how to make braised broccoli stalks with a herb and lemon dressing, discarded sourdough starters, apple core cider vinegar and strawberry tops rum – which he infuses in the dishwasher in a jam jar to save energy.
He said: “It’s about thinking a bit outside the box and using the scraps. If you’ve got stale bread, don’t just bin it, you can make a celebration out of it.
“I think people are hungry to learn how to eat and live well and now more than ever it’s a struggle.
“If I can offer simple tricks and ways to cook simply and easily, it becomes accessible to anyone.”
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