The first Food on the Edge 2015 festival: 40 of the world’s best chefs in Galway

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd November 2015

On October 19 2015, 40 of the world’s best chefs descended on Galway in Ireland – the reason? The Food on the Edge 2015 festival organised by Michelin-starred chef JP McMahon.

>>> Read: JP McMahon, chef patron, Aniar, Galway

Food on the Edge festival, a two day symposium for food industry professionals, saw chefs leave the kitchen to talk about the future of food as they saw it.

Elena Arzak. Photo: Boyd Challenger“I wouldn’t have got this conference going if I wasn’t naive enough to think that I could do it,” explained JP McMahon. “There was a bit of stupidity there and madness! I had 40 chefs here but I talked to 200, it wasn’t as simple as contacting my top 40 and they were all guaranteed to get back to me!”

He added: “The aim of this symposium was to create a benchmark for best practise, in terms of food, its culture and the people who produce it. Chefs everywhere have a responsibility to be the avant-garde of food education, whether in the context of fine dining or street food.”

Over the two days chefs from around the world got up on stage and presented their interpretation of this year’s theme ‘Future of Food’. They included Nathan Outlaw, James ‘Jocky’ Petrie, David Scabin, Mikael Jonsson, Andy McFadden, Phil Howard, Daniel Patterson, David Kinch, Clare Smyth, Elena Arzak, Tim Raue and Quique Dacosta.

JP said: “I wanted everyone to come here and listen to chefs speak but I also wanted them to meet the chefs. There is no point just watching, you can sit on your couch and watch people on youtube until the cows come home - that’s why something like this has to have a legacy, it has to continue.”

The impressive line-up were not only bursting at the seams with Michelin stars but they were all eager to share their thoughts on the industry with their peers. There were several underlying thoughts which were echoed by a number of speakers including looking to the past when cooking in the future, not putting your ego as a chef first and making food accessible to everybody.

Mikael Jonsson from Hedone opened his speech with the line "fine dinning as we know it is Mikael Jonsson. Photo: Boyd Challengerdoomed". Why? Because chefs don't want to work in a Michelin star restaurant for 90 hours for shit money anymore. His thoughts were echoed by Andy McFadden, executive head chef at Pierre de Terre. He spoke about chef shortage, saying while it is a buzz word, currently reducing hours and working days for chefs, while a positive move is ‘a short term solution’. His plan is to reach out through the community to work with schools to generate a passion and interest in cooking at an early age.

“There’s been such diversity in the talks,” explained JP. “From Paul Flynn talking about his food journey – which had so many similarities with Alyn Williams as he discussed nostalgia and food memeories to Alena Arzak looking into the future.”

Daniel Patterson, best known for his San Fransisco restauramt Coi, is the co-founder of The Cooking Project a community based organisation dedicated to teaching kids and young adults fundamental cooking skills. His talk focused on his latest venture of fast food and is called LocoL, which will open its first outlet in Watts, one of Los Angeles’ roughest neighbourhoods, later this year.

On the topic of reinventing fast food, he said: “Cooperations in America created industrial food; ingredients were replaced with chemicals and cooks replaced by machines – that was about seven years ago. The United States now serves some of the worst food in the world.

“It’s the only food available in some of the poorest communities in America and it’s having a deep impact on their health.” Mark Moriarty. Photo: Boyd ChallengerThis long established chef gave the audience some real food for thought and so did the youngest speaker Mark Moriarty. He spoke about the kitchen culture and chef shortage form the point of view of young chefs.

Jp said: “Mark I see as the future and his dish which he won the San Pellegrino Young Chef with was amazing – especially as it was celeriac. To win with a vegetarian dish is fantastic. He spoke to us about transcendence and that is I suppose being more than a chef, putting in the work and instilling confidence.”

Over the two days of the conference we were treated to presentations that were comical, poignant and just down right mad but you would expect nothing less from a room full of chefs.

Jp said: “I had a dream of bringing 40 of the world’s best chefs to Galway, it was a hair brained idea, I put all these elements together and I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what it would add up to but it’s added up to something truly amazing.

“I hope what we see is that we are a big international community, a family of sorts who share values.”

He added: “I don’t believe in doing things once, I do hope in 20 years we can look back at this moment and say ‘I was there, I was at the first Food on the Edge.

“I’ve already planned Food on the Edge for next year and the year after – but it’s all down to my madness and everyone else’s willingness to come.

“I don’t want it I be bigger but I want it to be better, to promote sustainability and artisan is a contradiction if you turn a conference into 10,000 people. I want people to take small individual things from this and the actions that come out of this conference I hope, like a root, they just spread in lots of random ways.”

>>> Read more on Food on the Edge 2016

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd November 2015

The first Food on the Edge 2015 festival: 40 of the world’s best chefs in Galway