A Pioneer for Sustainable, Trash Free, Carbon-Neutral Catering *
Anyone who works in events and promotions will tell you that it can be wasteful industry. Catering in particular can be extremely wasteful. Dishes and cutlery, food scraps, cups, napkins, and yes straws, add up to a lot of waste. The average wedding or large event produces about 400-600lbs of garbage, that’s a lot of trash!
Purslane, based in Brooklyn, NY has made a commitment to being a zero waste, sustainable company. In fact, it is NYC’s first trash-free and carbon-neutral caterer and a leader in the sustainable and eco-conscious movement within the events industry. Initiatives include sourcing locally grown, organic food and local beverages, using recyclable and compostable products and materials, and avoiding single use and non-recyclable plastics. They also and partnering with local charities to donate leftover foods. There are even plans to install a methane digester, reminds me of Thunderdome (in a good way).
Purslane was founded in 2014 by Amanda Braddock along with partner Henry Rich, founder of Rhodora, a zero waste wine bar. Amanda started her business when her son was about a year old. I remember Amanda participating in a panel discussion about being a parent at an industry event at 501 Union. She was asked if she recommended starting a business as a new mom and she jokingly said “don’t” I didn’t think so. Having started my business when my daughter was a baby, I know how hard it can be, but we all sort of grew up together. Admittedly, being a parent is a second job, however, Amanda now looks at motherhood as a way to gain perspective, and have a whole new life.
The catering business can be chaotic. It requires long hours and a lot of thinking on your feet. You really have to love the business to be in it. Recycling and composting may not be the sexiest aspect of the business but Braddock is hoping that others will catch on.
Amanda had been working in the restaurant industry for about 14 years her last position was at Le Bernardin. Le Bernardin, known for its ultra-haute cuisine was founded by Eric Ripert who has made a mission of transforming toxic work cultures, and supports food donations to charities like City Harvest. If you would like to learn more about him here is a link to a great podcast that talks about his personal philosophies, hiring practices and life mission. I have listened to this a few times, and try to emulate his philosophy as much as possible.
Purslane has always been one of my favorite catering companies, I love their attention to detail and clean, simple yet elegant style. The flavors always have a bright, sparkling aspect balanced with a smooth depth. It’s never gimmicky and the quality of the food is exceptional. At events they always served their food on little recyclable boats, with wooden serviceware and picks. I really appreciated the commitment to using compostable materials was thrilled to learn that it was part of a much bigger mission.
This mission starts at the top. Amanda and her team have examined every aspect of the business looking for ways to honor their commitment to zero waste. This includes what they bring in, how they measure their ingredients, the fuel they use, where they source their products from, even the latex gloves and cello-wrap required by the health department. She admitted that when the program was first launched in 2018, that it really ate into their profit margin, but felt that it was a necessary investment in a program that is so important. She had to find a way to implement it without passing the costs onto her clients. When hiring, she makes sure that every member of her team is committed to sustainability.
Last year, Purslane was fortunate enough to be listed as the exclusive vendor at the Prospect Park Boathouse. This beautiful, historic venue is located in the middle of Prospect Park and has its own unique set of challenges. Amanda found that there was a steep learning curve working at that venue. It is a historic building that is in a public place and is used by the public up until right before the event. Setup times are tight, and even getting to the location and loading in is an art. One thing she wasn’t expecting was racoons. There is quite a bit of wildlife to be found in Brooklyn.
Purslane’s commitment to zero waste has opened many doors for them. Before this mission was launched, Purslane was known for their special event and wedding catering. Now they are getting the attention of corporations who are environmentally conscious and want to work with companies who are invested in sustainability.
Looking forward, Amanda would like to continue to grow Purslane. She worries about changes they will need to make in order to grow and how the company living its mission. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to podcasts, hiking and reading. The last book she read was Zealot, a historical telling of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.
Pictures By Soujouner Society
Headshot by Bam Events
* I try not to write about myself when I am writing about other people. Seems rude to me. However, when writing this, I thought a lot about my Aunt Lois. She hated to throw anything away. She saved orange peels to make potpourri, egg shells to start seedlings in, watermelon rinds to make pickles, she washed and reused paper towels, and even saved dryer sheets and made little angels and made flowers out of them. I come from a family with a long history of conservation and thrift. My family settled in the US in the Appalachian mountains in the early 1700’s. The OG pioneers. They were Brethren, similar to Mennonite and Amish, and believed in simplicity, hard work, charity and being a pacifist. Growing up we always questioned could this be used for something, could another person use this, before throwing anything out. My Aunt Lois lived these values. This is one of the reasons I am so fond of Purslane’s mission.
She was very pious, always kind and very generous with her love and with material items. I found out that she peacefully passed away early this morning so I am dedicating this to her. She would love the good work Purslane is doing.