"Brexit is coming. It's a disaster," JP McMahon - the brains and driving force behind Food on the Edge gets straight to the point explaining why this year's edition, on 22 and 23 October, includes two panel discussions devoted to "British Food Now" and "Irish chefs abroad."
The annual international food symposium in Galway gives industry leaders a platform to address the difficult questions like, "What would British food be without immigration? and how would Irish food develop if our young chefs didn’t travel and learn?
McMahon argues, "It’s a time to think about borders and nationality. Why do we create so many categories that divide us? Hopefully these panel discussions will open up more dialogue, push us into places that will create a better food society."
What's sure is there will be plenty of discussions to be had and important voices to be heard at this year's symposium where an impressive speaker line-up will embrace the central theme of "conversation."
Here's what the Irish chef and activist had to tell us ahead of #FOTE 2018:
Why did you choose such an open theme?
Chefs will always talk about what they want, despite the theme. I try keep it quite broad. Last year, mental health came up a lot, even though it was not a topic. I try and let things flow. Conversations are what bring us together, as friends, as a community. We need to talk to make things better, to open more sustainable methods of distribution.
What are your expectations for this year’s event?
I’d like people to come to the event and go away with a better understanding of our food culture, of how food makes us who we are. There are over 600 people attending. It's all about the people that you meet and the conversations you have. I hope each speaker puts their passion into their talk and teaches us a thing or two about how to make our industry better.
What do you think differentiates your conferences from any other international food symposium?
We are building a community. A global gathering of like-minded chefs and industry professionals who will return year after year. Nothing can be solved in a year. Our symposium focuses on legacy, on improving our industry. It’s not just about entertainment, it’s about a commitment to good food for everyone.
Can you tell us how the event has evolved since your inaugural edition in 2015?
We have diversified much more. We have tried to look beyond the usual suspects in the chef world. The audience too has evolved; it has become more sophisticated. Chefs no longer talk about themselves and their dishes, they try and bring actions to the table. We’e also developed an artisan market of 90 Irish producers. This arose in year two. We wanted to highlight Irish food and showcase it to an international audience.
What learnings have you have taken away and acted upon from previous editions?
The importance of tackling food waste, of mental health, of trying to create a better working environment, helping young chefs travel and get mentors, bringing more gender balance to the industry, using more wild food, sustainability, aquaculture, seaweed, more organic food…the list goes on.
What do you envisage for the future of FOTE?
Next year we hope to move it, possibly to Belfast. The idea is that we return to Galway every second year. I want to diversify more, seek out speakers in far flung places. There is food everywhere, which means there is culture everywhere. We need to reach out and talk to each other, make our food culture better. We’ll continue to evolve, both internally and externally.