Composting Champion of the Week

17 August 2018


The Columbus Culinary Institute

Interview With Dan Reese, director of operations


17 August 2018  |  Article & Photos by Katie Carey



The Columbus Culinary Institute, nestled near I-270 in Gahanna, serves the central Ohio region by offering post-secondary education and hands-on experience in the culinary arts. The institute has operated for over 12 years, offering two-year associate degree programs and year-long diploma programs for culinary students.


Dan Reese, Director of Operations at the institute, explains how The Columbus Culinary Institute impacts the restaurant industry: “We’re making a difference by raising the bar,” he says proudly, “we’re bringing great crew leads [and] first line cooks into the industry and forcing their co-workers to raise their game.”


The Columbus Culinary Institute doesn’t only raise the bar with their student chefs; they raise the bar for sustainability efforts in the restaurant industry, too, through composting.


A Columbus Culinary student shows off the class's container of food scraps

A Columbus Culinary student shows off the class's container of food scraps

The institute tried composting twice before. When the first company they tried didn’t work, they took matters into their own hands, determined to divert their food scraps. “The second time,” Dan reveals, “we tried composting ourselves.” Problems arose with that system too, though, as “It was too labor intensive and no one could really own it.”


After the logistics fizzled the second time, Dan wasn’t convinced composting would work for the institute. Then, he said, “Innovative Organics knocked on the door one day.”


Determined to make it work, The Columbus Culinary Institute began compost with Innovative Organics Recycling in February of 2017.  A year and a half later, the service still supports the institute’s needs, with The Columbus Culinary Institute composting an average of 1,200 pounds of food scraps a week. By composting these scraps, the institute reduces their CO2 emission by 53,864 kg every year, or roughly the amount of energy it takes to provide electricity to an average household for 13 years.


“I’m obviously pleased with the service,” Dan explains, “on the very warmest of days, it does get odorous back there. But they bring us a bag of [wood] chips and boom: it absorbs the aroma.”


Dan isn’t the only one pleased with the composting service. As an unexpected perk of composting, The Columbus Culinary Institute has received praise from the American Culinary Federation (ACF), a nationally renowned leader in the culinary community. “The ACF is pushing all of it’s culinary schools to go green,” Dan explains, “by doing this composting, they were very impressed.”


As for the future chefs who are students at The Columbus Culinary Institute?

The students don’t really know any different.
— Dan Reese, The Columbus Culinary School

Dan confirms the students have easily slipped into the roll as composters in the kitchen. “If we don’t have it [the compost bins] out there, the students will complain- where am I supposed to put this?” Dan laughs, “the students don’t really know any different.”


In the future, Dan plans to take students to the Innovative Organics Recycling composting plant, utilizing the service as an educational opportunity for the students to understand why and how compost happens. Most importantly, he clarifies, he wants the students to take ownership over the operation.


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