“I think the main goal is to try and make the exact right amount that will sell fresh that week, but that’s not always possible,” pointed out Ashlyn Ransome, co-owner of The Pasta Shoppe in Thunder Bay. A goal that would truly be ideal in every part of the food chain, yet it is so difficult to achieve. Christine Couvelier, Trendi’s Chief Culinary Innovation Officer, sat down with Ashlyn to talk about how food waste has been handled in her restaurant since opening the mother-daughter operation back in 2015.
Fresh Things Come in Small Packages
When asked how she deals with food waste within her business Ashlyn said, “I think our number one, especially in the fresh pasta retail world, would be encouraging our customers to freeze our food so that they can enjoy it when they’re ready. But really it’s a big question that I still have…”
At The Pasta Shoppe, Ashlyn prefers to make smaller batches to promote fresher products before recommending freezing food for later consumption. During the summer months, Ashlyn and her mother Kim like to repurpose ingredients into the retail pasta salads that The Pasta Shoppe sells in local markets.
Keeping the Conversation Going
Christine asked Ashlyn if she thinks the food industry has become better at handling food waste within the last five to ten years, Ashlyn said, “I think there’s two sides to it. I think it hurts to think about the real impact.” She believes we have to pull back the layers and be honest about what’s happening with food waste.
“It’s not easy to look at the reality of it, but I think there is innovation now. I think the conversations are happening.” Ashlyn is confident that the more we talk about it and keep the conversations going amongst our food industries, the safer it will feel for people to have these conversations outside of the industry and that’s where Ashlyn says the real change starts to take place.
When Christine spoke of the very real timeline we face with annual food waste accumulation, Ashlyn noted, “We have more and more waste and we’re continuously trying to meet the consumer demand that we’re not even quite sure of ourselves. It’s the guesswork in the industry that’s creating the waste I think as well.”
Nature Can’t Be Beet
“If you have ugly beets, I’m your girl,” Ashlyn and Kim support their farmers by participating in their local CSA and receive weekly otherwise wasted vegetables. Ashlyn is passionate about farm-to-table and the innovation that happens in between. “Don’t be afraid to come to me and say, ‘hey, we have beets that we can’t do anything with’.”
In some extreme cases, farmers may find frost alters the tips of their kale and see this as a cosmetic hindrance. But where farmers see a food obstacle Ashlyn recognizes food opportunities. She’s more than happy to take the aesthetically impaired food and use it to make exquisite, rich, deep green pasta. This is what truly excites Ashlyn because she can, “take really ugly greens and make it into a beautiful product that is serving myself, our business and the farm.”
Ashlyn is constantly sharing stories with her customers about where the ingredients come from as many of them are curious about the bright colours and pigments in the foods that come from the restaurant. When customers ask her questions like “why is this pasta pink?”, Ashlyn refers to ingredients like beets as “colour bombs that grow from the Earth” and says there’s no need to use food dyes when you have vegetables that naturally create the “most beautiful colours”.
The Pasta Shoppe is also proud to say their brightly coloured foods are a big hit with the kids. Ashlyn says it’s another way to create more food memories around the table especially when kids can come into the restaurant with their families and pick out what they want.
Support Your Fellow Trailblazers
Before parting ways with Christine, Ashlyn shared that it doesn’t matter what a vegetable looks like, it matters about what it tastes like, and how you’re using it. She says the ‘food perfection’ mindset that’s been instilled in the industry is bizarre to her, food will never be perfect and it’s all about the experience you have eating it.
The Pasta Shoppe is located at 251 Red River Road in Thunder Bay. Visit their restaurant and try one of their colourfully-conscious, decadent dishes!
Article written by:
Erika Altomare, Copywriter
Erika is a passionate wellness, food, and lifestyle writer who appreciates the little things and always asks questions about the big ones.