La Jolla eateries partner to create ‘upcycled’ veggie burger

The La Jolla branches of Mendocino Farms sandwich shop and Pressed Juicery juice bar have partnered to create the “Rescued Vegetable Burger,” which uses the vegetable pulp left over from Pressed Juicery’s juices to make a vegan burger. Each week, the burger will use 300-500 pounds of vegetable pulp, reducing food waste.

After four months of experimentation and 20 incarnations, the Menocino Farms culinary team settled on the final version of the burger, which officially rolled out Sept. 25 and will be on the fall menu for three months.

Mario Del Pero, co-founder of Mendocino Farms, said the burger is not just “good for a vegan burger,” but that it tastes good across the board.

“We know people are trying to have a more plant-based, healthy lifestyle and when we set out to make this burger, we wanted it to taste good. It takes like veggies but there is a moistness to it. It has a savory, umami quality to it,” he said. “We take the leftover pulp of beets, carrots, spinach, kale, romaine and tumeric, mix it with white beans, brown rice, grilled onions and seasonings.”

The burger is completed with beet Thousand Island dressing, spicy tofu cheese, tomato, onion and lettuce and a vegan brioche bun. “So there is no butter in the bun, but all the richness of brioche,” Del Pero said.

After hearing about an Oregon-based ice cream shop that used unused food products to flavor their confections, Del Pero said he became interested in “upcycling” food products. Couple that with his regular patronage at Pressed Juicery, and the idea was born.

“On our tasting days, when we sample new menu items, we only drink juices so our taste buds are not influenced, and we always get our juice from Pressed,” he said. “One day I was wondering where the leftover pulp went and through mutual friends, I was able to connect to the CEO of Pressed and asked them if they would be willing to send us some pulp for a veggie burger.”

Hayden Slater, co-founder and CEO of Pressed Juicery, was happy to oblige. “Historically, we have given the pulp leftover from our juicing process to local farmers for animal feed or compost. While we still continue to do this, we were so excited when our friends from Mendocino Farms called us to collaborate,” he said. “This burger has allowed us to participate in the movement towards upcycling food. We hope this burger helps spark conversation and show that upcycled food can be delicious, vibrant and good for you.”

He added that the remaining pulp is high in nutritional value and fiber. “Not only are you getting the pulp from non-GMO fruits and vegetables that we use in our juice, but this byproduct does contain nutritious value and also fiber. We’re in the process of testing the pulp to find out more about its nutritional make up.”

As for why reduction of food waste is crucial, Slater said: “There is currently a global nutrition crisis, so ultimately anyone or any company that is willing to participate, however possible, makes a difference. ... It’s been very inspiring to see more and more companies paying attention to the waste and participating in the upcycling movement, I think this is only just the beginning.”

— Mendocino Farms is at 8795 Villa La Jolla Drive and Pressed Juicery is within Westfield UTC at 4545 La Jolla Village Drive.

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