by Blair Adams

Hailed as the “Julia Child of our times,” 29-year-old chef Rob McGuire is leading a food revolution that is taking America by storm: It’s called Recycled Cuisine, and Rob is showing Americans that fine cuisine is as close as the nearest Dumpster. Using carefully selected ingredients from trash bins around his hometown of Seattle, Rob creates interesting and innovative recipes that are scrumptious and easy to prepare.

He typically goes “shopping” for ingredients twice a day at two o’clock in the afternoon after breakfast and lunch, and then again around nine or ten o’clock, when the dinner hour is over at most restaurants. “I always use fresh ingredients,” he explained. “You never know what you’re going to find in a Dumpster, and that brings an element of spontaneity, randomness, chance and unpredictability to these recipes. It’s very exciting.”

Rob McGuire is pioneering a new movement in American cuisine.

Rob McGuire is pioneering a new movement in American cuisine.

For instance, Rob is famous for his rice croquettes, which he makes by waiting outside of Asian restaurants. There he takes all the rice left over from people’s plates, combines them with different ingredients such as mushrooms, bell peppers, and shrimp, rolls them into balls, and then fries them on the spot with a portable cook stove he brings with him. Rob points out that anyone can do this with a campfire, skillet and cooking oil.

Shish kabobs are another specialty of his and can utilize any type of cuisine as a source of ingredients. “You can find the ingredients in almost any restaurant trash bin,” he said, “and the possibilities are endless. You can really be creative and even combine ingredients that you wouldn’t think go together.” Making shish kabobs is easy, he explained. “You just find any old stick, and go to it.”

His increasingly popular cooking show, Dumpster Diving, on the Food Network, is winning millions of fans all over the country, and his cookbook has been on The New York Times bestseller list for seven months. Rob went to the Cordon Bleu academy in Seattle, but like so many other cooking school graduates, found only $10 or $12 an hour jobs as a line cook waiting for him when he got out. That wasn’t nearly enough to pay back the thousands of dollars of student loans he had taken out, so he had to think on his feet. Recycled Cuisine was the result.

For reasons of food safety, Rob frequently tells people to always cook food thoroughly and avoid scavenging raw or fresh foods such as salads. Cooking at high temperatures kills bacteria, which is an important consideration with this type of cooking. Instead, he says, weeds like fennel and chicory are edible and available at many vacant lots. He also makes delightful salads with Miner’s lettuce, a common plant found throughout the West Coast. His cookbook even includes a section on how to grow salad greens in tin cans.

So people don’t feel stigmatized by using such unconventional cooking methods, he emphasizes the innovative nature of his cuisine. “Cooking has been evolving this way for centuries,” he pointed out. “People have always used whatever ingredients they had at their disposal. For example, in order to stretch a piece of meat, Genoese sailors just put a little bit of the meat in between two squares of pasta—and presto, ravioli. Just think of yourself as writing a new chapter in culinary history.”

Blair Adams is the editor of Downsized Living.

All Downsized Living blog posts are fictitious and satirical. Any resemblance to real persons is coincidental and unintentional.

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