Originally created 11/05/04

Scraps of food whet appetites of plants



BERKELEY, Calif. - Haute cuisine is going green in a program that recycles restaurant and household food scraps into high-grade compost for Northern California farms and vineyards.

More than 2,200 restaurants and food businesses and 75,000 households in San Francisco take part in the clean-plate, clean-environment project, which began on an experimental basis in the late 1990s and has since become a national model for food recycling.

From Candlestick Park to Fisherman's Wharf, table scraps are deposited in green plastic cans and then converted into Four Course Compost.

The result is less waste in landfills, lower garbage pickup costs, vibrant vines and vegetables - and a cheerful sense of completing a circle.

"Now you have restaurateurs that are excited about sending nutrients back to the farms and vineyards. That's exciting stuff. That's role reversal," says Robert Reed of Norcal Waste Systems Inc., the San Francisco-based producers of Four Course Compost.

The food scraps come from burger joints and some of the city's fanciest restaurants, including Jardiniere and Boulevard.

"We love the program," says Jonathan Cook, the supervisor of operations at the Metreon, an entertainment complex in San Francisco that has eight restaurants supplying compost fodder. "People feel ... they're doing something good for the environment while they're working."

Growers like the program, too.

"I think it's been fabulous," says Kathleen Inman, the owner and winemaker at Inman Family Vineyards in Sonoma County. The organic compost makes for healthy vines, and it is a kick to think of the soil's candlelit past, she says.

eric risberg/associated pressCompost made from the waste from high-end San Francisco restaurants gets spread through the Bouchaine winery vineyards in Napa, Calif.