Chef David Gunawan and co. make a meal of waste with the Ugly Duckling Dinners.
Chef/restaurateur David Gunawan’s sterling reputation is largely built upon his devotion to local and environmentally conscious edibles—his first dining room, Farmer’s Apprentice (winner of Restaurant of the Year and Best New Restaurant accolades at this magazine’s 2014 Restaurant Awards), builds its ever-changing menu from whatever regional purveyors deliver to its kitchen each day. Meanwhile, next-door neighbour Grapes & Soda serves exclusively natural, organic, and biodynamic wines alongside similarly locavore-driven small plates. This month and next, at his acclaimed third restaurant, Royal Dinette, Gunawan expands his sustainability purview to encompass ingredients that are normally viewed as, literally, garbage. The Ugly Duckling Dinners (Oct. 20 and Nov. 24) aims to offer both an unforgettable multi-course meal and a benevolent lesson in food-waste awareness. Unlikely, seemingly useless foodstuffs such as coffee grounds, egg shells, and assorted stems, stalks, and leaves will be transformed into eye- and palate-pleasing dishes exclusive to these meals. “There’s a certain playful tone and dichotomy to the term ‘ugly duckling’,” Gunawan says of the dinners. “But it speaks to the notion of transformation, and in turn, the notion of sustainability—to try and prevent waste by finding ways to use it in a more conscientious and efficient manner. We want to educate people about thoughtful food consumption and show them that they don’t need to throw these pieces away.” Tickets for the dinners, which include beverage pairings, are $79 each (plus tax and gratuity) from the restaurant’s website.