AUTHOR: Alexandra Chaden, Segment Producer, The Mind of a Chef

As Americans, we throw away tons of food every year — literally. A quick internet search will tell you that we waste over 200 pounds of food per person per annum.

A third of the food produced for human consumption on the planet ends up in the garbage. (NB: It’s on the internet; it has to be true, right? Don’t actually quote me on any of this.) Many truly gifted chefs keep a close and creative eye on the lesser known parts of an animal, the trimmings that nobody thinks to eat, the day-old mashed potatoes that have grown all dry and crumbly, the internal organs and soggy roasted veggies — and they find ways to make these things delicious. Waste not want not could be April’s motto, and that of all the chefs we visited for this episode.

I’ll admit I was mildly squeamish about a few of the proposed dishes, made with kidneys and skins and fatback and spine scrapings — but all were insanely tasty. Searching Chinatown with local chef Brandon Jew produced all sorts of finds, including a few dead sharks for sale set up on a box on the sidewalk. We did not purchase them, sadly, but they certainly looked good.

April cooked up kidneys with her good friend and co-conspirator Fergus Henderson while in the UK. The ingredients certainly looked gorgeous, proving that once again the things so many of us toss aside are sometimes the best parts of the beast.

We couldn’t do an episode of TV in San Francisco and not cook with Chris Cosentino. The man has a notorious affinity for the nasty bits of an animal, and has literally made a career out of perfecting “leftovers.” Anybody can cook a steak, but to make brains and spleens delicious takes a true artist (and, I’m guessing, copious amounts of butter and salt).

Chris made spaghetti out of pigskin — yes, the actual skin of a pig. Of the variety that usually gets thrown out unless it’s roasted until crisp or made into cracklings. He made it for us two ways; here it was served with corn, chanterelle mushrooms, and just a few shavings of summer truffle.

The “after” shot, as in “after our crew devoured the pasta.” The noodles were surprisingly springy and simultaneously al dente. They had the tiniest bit of porky essence, and just enough fat to lightly coat your mouth. In case there was any question, I mean both of these things as a compliment.

This is what a tub of salmon spines and fish heads looks like. Garbage? Not so much. Brandon Jew has lived in San Francisco his whole life and has been coming to Chinatown with his grandmother since he can remember. He’s always “got a guy.” And in this case, these came from his fish guy.

Why yes, this IS a blue fish you see here. I have no idea what it is called nor what it would taste like, but I can tell you that it was not the strangest thing we saw on Broadway.

This was.

Brandon Jew’s maneki-neko tattoo. Flashing the “westside” symbol, naturally.