Did you know the USDA estimates that food waste represents 30 to 40 percent of our food supply? And, the agency says, it is the single largest component in our landfills.

The Colorado Restaurant Association and its members recently shook things up by rethinking menu items to feature food that’s usually thrown away. Some of those items were served during its food challenge last month in Denver.

Getting down and dirty with sourcing

The challenge: chefs had to prepare a dish using 50 percent or more food-waste components in their entries. They also had to present a copy of their menus highlighting where their ingredients came from.

Learning the benefits of waste reduction

“We hope this event creates an opportunity to develop and promote innovative ways to reduce food loss and waste,” said Sonia Riggs, the CRA’s president and CEO. “It’s also a great way to reduce costs in an environment when restaurants are getting squeezed from every angle.”

Video: Taste the Waste

Local officials and sustainability experts, including National Restaurant Association Sustainability Manager Jeff Clark, judged the competition.

No contest, apple cobbler is the winner!

Chef Kevin Grossi, of The Regional restaurant, took home the $1,500 grand prize for his apple cobbler with avocado-pit streusel, salted apple core caramel and potato/apple skin pastry.

Serving up delicacies du jour

Other entries included smoked salmon belly ceviche with pork belly consommé and scallion relish, by Trevor Gaughan of Russell’s Smokehouse; and seared cobia with root vegetable peel with Old Bay Beurre Blanc, by Root Down DIA restaurant’s Spencer Hysell.