Food on the Edge 2016: Day 1

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th October 2016

Today at the Town Hall Theatre in Galway, Ireland saw the return of the great Food on the Edge 2016 festival.

Attendees heard from over twenty-five influential people from diverse professions in the food industry. The annual event brings people together to discuss the future of food and how to make changes for the better.

JP McMahon

(credit Declan Monoghan)

The event is organised by Michelin-starred chef JP McMahon who asks that we become better ‘food ambassadors’. JP introduced the themes to this year’s symposium – ‘changing perceptions on national cuisine’, ‘caring for our heritage’ and ‘learning from the past to create the future’.

A truly international event, speakers from all over the globe shared their thoughts about cuisine, cooking techniques and ethical issues. For many, there were some poignant reminders of critical differences and even prejudices in today’s gastronomic industry.

On the morning of the first day, we heard from Saqib Keval, the co-founder of the People’s Kitchen Collective. The PKC are a community project based in Oakland, California with food and social action at the heart of their work. In his talk, Saqib discussed systemic race and gender discrimination worldwide and took a particular focus on the lack of healthy, good quality food available to poorer black and brown communities in the US: "Food has always been a powerful tool of the oppressor."

He reminded us of the Free Breakfast for Children programme put on by the Black Panther Party in 1969 and showed us that “Food is [also] inherently political”. The People’s Kitchen Collective hold pop-up dinners in their neighbourhood, where the emphasis is on cultural heritage and they invite people to “pay what they can”. He also challenged the traditional notion of a white, male chef and asked the audience to think about what a powerful tool for resistance and cultural awareness food can be.

>>> Read more about Food on the Edge here

Using her background in molecular science, food writer and trained chef Luciana Bianchi gave a rather thought-provoking talk about the ‘modern slavery’ and privilege of gastronomy. Reminding us that we are lucky to be able to experience food as more than just fuel, Luciana started the talk with the concept of social responsibility. “We live in free countries and we have more than we need… and I try to remember that every day.”

She talked about the sometimes unethically sourced produce and the rife exploitation of labour in the hospitality industry. Luciana’s talk addressed chefs, telling them they must change their behaviours, making more conscious decisions about their participation in this problem.  With these home truths, Luciana left us with this thought: “It is time to put more truth onto our plates and to embrace our humanity in our work.”

Luciana Bianchi

(credit Declan Monoghan)

Claude Bosi was also on the line-up this year, after JP had tried to get him to FOTE last year. He spoke about his food and why he first decided to refurbish his London restaurant, Hibiscus: “If I'm not happy, the food will represent it." Previously, he said it resembled an office. In doing so, it changed the atmosphere of the establishment completely. People were more relaxed in their dining experience. Then he spoke about how they tried a tasting menu and ended up setting fire to it because it was ‘boring’– “I came back to work and I said f**k that!”

He shared a very honest account of his personal relationship to his work and gave an inspiring talk about being passionate about what you do and why you do it. Starting again, Claude says that he is worried but at least he will be cooking the food that he wants to.

At the end of day one, Food on the Edge has already broached some tough subjects. But it’s also inspired many to reflect on the past and look forward to the future of food. A very exciting day of discussion and debate, we can’t wait for tomorrow! We’re bringing you live updates from FOTE via Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat so be sure to follow us for an insight into this important event.

>>> Read more on Food on the Edge 2016

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th October 2016

Food on the Edge 2016: Day 1