I'm guessing your uncle wasn't Chinese, but that is a very Chinese sentiment. All the serving dishes and bowls being empty would reduce the host to total loss of face.
The dark side of that is the huge amount of food waste I see here, although, to be fair there is a big doggy bag culture in restaurants and at home. Recently with more city dwelling people having fridges, uneaten lunch will turn up at dinner etc.
Out in the countryside, it is normal to cook slightly too much, especially when entertaining.The lack of refrigeration here in the countryside tropics rules out recycling, but the pigs have smiles on their faces (which we eat in winter).