Game of Bones: Why Nose to Tail Took Off


Bone broth to go, roasted bone marrow with toast, popcorn chicken hearts, braised cow tongue- these are just a small sampling of current menu items available at hot spot restaurants around the world. Nose to tail eating has come full circle in recent years, with restaurants now serving animal parts that diners would have snubbed even a decade ago. Offal, which is the entrails, kidney, brain, and heart of an animal, as well as other unused parts like tripe, spleen and tongue are now popping up on menus across North America.



Why Nose to Tail Went Mainstream

Nose to tail is nothing new. In fact, before industrialization, eating the whole animal and making the most of the food available was how people survived. As convenience foods began to flood the market, and plastic-wrapped meats stocked grocery shelves, our food became more sanitized and removed us from the process of where our food comes from.


Restaurant dining for the most part reiterated the sanitized food experience, offering classic and familiar dishes. That is until recently. With the flare-up of foodie culture, diners have become more interested in what’s in their food and where it comes from, taking chances on new dishes, and eating as a source of entertainment. This new attitude and willingness means diners are listening to the philosophies of chefs, and eager to experience the vision of a restaurant.


Chefs and restaurateurs are taking this opportunity to get creative with food waste, as there’s no doubt of the environmental consequences of excess garbage, or the impact of waste on the bottom line. Using techniques like brining, roasting, curing, pickling, fermenting and others, chefs are using new and old methods to create original and delicious items to add to the menu.


The nose to tail movement is now spreading to encompass more than just meat. It’s become a reference for looking at waste with a discerning eye and forcing chefs and restaurant owners to rethink what is really garbage.



Pioneers at the Forefront

Movements don’t happen on their own, they begin with a thought leader that boldly goes against the grain. In the case of the chefs below, their philosophies translated into plates of delicious food that created buzz and filled seats. Making the point that offal isn’t awful and that one man’s garbage is another customer’s dinner.


Fergus Henderson – The Visionary

Fergus Henderson is an English chef, restaurant owner, and author in London. His 2004 book, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, is credited with spawning the use of offal and neglected animal parts in restaurant cooking. He’s been heralded as the father of nose to tail by famous food personalities Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali.


April Bloomfield – The Innovator

April Bloomfield is a James Beard Award Winning New York City chef with two Michelin stars and three restaurants, and the author of two cookbooks. Bloomfield’s first book A Girl and Her Pig, caused a stir when it was released in 2012, as the cover featured her in chef’s whites with a dead pig slung across her shoulders. The book was a bestseller and solidified Bloomfield as a leader in her field. She is known for her nose to tail ideology, advocating the practice as a form of respect to the animal, stressing the importance of using every piece possible to maximize flavor and increase profits.


Dan Barber – The Idealist

Dan Barber is a chef, TED Talk speaker, and author. He was appointed by President Obama to President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. His farm-to-table restaurant, Blue Hill is known for growing all the food served in the restaurant. In early 2015, Barber launched a 3 week pop-up, called WastED in NYC, featuring an entire menu made from byproducts of local restaurants and food service companies. Beet and carrot pulp from a local juicery was made into vegetarian burgers, day old bread was turned into crunchy buns, and the odds and ends from bruised vegetables were made into a salad. The pop-up launched a conversation around the repercussions of food waste, and inspired chefs around the world to reconsider what they throw away.


Gabrielle Hamilton – The Pragmatist

Gabrielle Hamilton is known for her bad girl attitude and is the author of a food memoir that Anthony Bourdain said was “the best memoir written by a chef ever.” Hamilton is the owner of Prune, a well-known New York City restaurant, and authored a best-selling cookbook based on the restaurant’s menu. A featured chef on the cult food series, Mind of a Chef, Hamilton dedicated a full episode to examining what is or isn’t garbage. Her point is made clear that money doesn’t flow easily into a restaurant, but by maximizing the limited lifespan of fresh food by creatively considering what can be done with it, chefs and restaurant owners can expand both their menu and their profits.



Nose to Tail Hacks You Can Try

You don’t need to be a top chef or famous restaurateur to get in on the nose to tail trend, it’s simply switching your mindset to look at refuse as revenue. Here are 5 creative ways to incorporate the nose to tail movement in your restaurant:

  • Think outside the box with fruit peels and vegetable stalks: Broccoli stalks are delicious when the skins are peeled away, orange peels can be dehydrated and powdered and used to add zest to salads or desserts. Look at what you’re tossing and try to figure out a way to repurpose it.

  • Reuse food containers: Large olive oil tins or tomato tins can be used as planters to grow herbs or add flair to the decor.

  • Broth can be made with ends of vegetables, bones, and simple herbs and spices, and used to add extra flavor to dishes. Use it to cook meats, steam vegetable, or reduce it into a sauce.

  • Marrow bones and little gourds or pumpkins can be washed and cleaned and repurposed as candle holders to add ambiance.

  • Even food waste from diner’s plates is made into compost at Dan Barber’s farm, Blue Hill. Perhaps a local farm, or one of your farmer suppliers could benefit from your refuse.


You might not need to go as far as serving a bone marrow creme brulee, but using the whole animal, all parts of a vegetable, and repurposing what goes in and out of your doors, makes a lot of sense for the bottom line. Make no bones about it.


Check out creative ways to rehash your trash on our Pinterest board.


About the Author

Andrea Victory

Andrea was a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she wrote about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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