The two-day food congress, Food on The Edge, held in Galway, Ireland, is one of the highlights of the culinary calendar with chefs from all over the world descending on the beautiful coastal town for a series of presentations, conversations and debates about all things food, chefs, restaurants, and culture.
Now in its fifth year, the 2019 version of Food on The Edge focused on a central theme of immigration but speakers were given a wide remit to touch on all sorts of topics: the future of food, conversations in the world of gastronomy and reactions to gastronomic happenings.
The founder of the festival, Jp McMahon, opened day one with a recap of previous editions, he spoke about how the event had developed and organically focused on big topics before MCs, Mark Best and Will Goldfarb, introduced a series of highly engaging presentations.
Respect and Revere
Ben Shewry made a passionate and poignant presentation called "Shut Up and Listen". He spoke about First Nation communities in Australia, how they are all too often disrespected and how he has personally learned many fascinating things from the communities he has been lucky enough to work with. “We live in the country with the oldest continuing culture by far but this unknown to many Australians,” said the chef as he spoke some of the amazing things he had learned by listening, watching and most importantly, respecting the First Nation people. He also used the example of how Australia and First Nation people were the makers of the world’s first-ever bread recipe, even though many people do not know it.
Fine Dining Lovers senior correspondent, Ryan King, also presented at the festival, using his time on stage to focus on how changing kitchen culture and the sustainability of the chef. He offered insight into the difficulty of finding work-life balance as a chef and offered some concrete examples of leaders that are trying to make a positive impact on the culture of kitchens. He spoke about “the sustainability of the chef” and referenced conversations with the likes of Carlo Petrini who has said he believes the Escoffier model of organization and hierarchy inside kitchens should be eradicated.
Ebru Baybara Demir
The Hospitality of Giving
There were a number of talks that focused on the impact that hospitality and gastronomy can have within society. Ebru Baybara Demir from Turkey used her time on stage to talk about the impactful refugee programs she runs with Syrian women in her country.
Liam Tomlin from Singita spoke about creating a culinary school linked to a restaurant that trains young chefs in South Africa and how chefs must use their privilege to inspire and grow others in their community. Many of the students at Singita become chefs in the restaurant and he told the story of one student and her adventure to train in New York with the team at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It was a talk that inspired the whole room, “we can change lives by teaching these kids to cook.”
Dan Giusti from the USA spoke about how he stepped away from Noma in Copenhagen to start a program of cooking for children in schools, how he learned to listen to what the children wanted rather than what he wanted to cook and how it’s important to see chefs from the highest levels working with large institutions that feed lots of people. More to follow on this.
The Taste of Waste
There were number of talks, masterclasses and discussions aimed at using food waste in smart and sustainable ways but the stand out presentation came from Matt Stone of the Greenhouse, Silo and Brothel restaurants in Australia. He made people listen as he explained that “food waste costs the global economy 940 Billion dollars a year,” before presenting plans for an extraordinary project of a self-sustaining restaurant with everything from battery walls to bio-digesters, a cricket farm to aquaponic tanks. It’s one of the most ambitious sustainable projects we’ve encountered at Food on the Edge and one we will be bringing you more news on very soon.
This is a tiny snapshot of a highly engaging two-day event, stay tuned over the next days as we will be bringing you more detailed stories and videos from many of the presentations.