Celebrity chefs no longer need to leave their kitchens to be on famous magazine covers, food events stages, and TV shows with a large audience. In the new age of gastronomy exposure, many of them have become media entrepreneurs, and are now running their own magazines and book labels, creating their own podcasts and shows, organizing their own symposiums.
With the advent of social networking and digital overexposure, chefs are looking more and more for their own vehicles of media to become even more relevant in the gastronomic scene. “If you want to be successful within gastronomy nowadays it is not enough to simply be an excellent chef. You also need to create a brand value and be an entrepreneur” says Swiss wunderkind chef Andreas Caminada, who, besides running three Michelin-starred restaurants (among them the acclaimed Schauenstein), has his own magazine, which is published biannually in two languages (German and English) and “points not only to some spotlight on our producers and our own projects but also on other chefs, restaurants and projects I admire or find interesting”, as he explains.
David Chang Superstar
Caminada is not the first chef to create his own magazine. In 2011, chef David Chang (in partnership with editor Chris Ying and Peter Meehan) rocked the food world with the launch of Lucky Peach since its very first issue. The cult magazine, which folded last year after 22 issues, covered many alternative food stories and changed how readers looked to the food-focused vehicles. Last March Chang, creator and host of Netflix’s Ugly Delicious, came back to the food media world with Majordomo, a media endeavor that gathers an editorial platform, podcast, and video projects. His new podcast, The David Chang Show, has become an instant hit. The group also has multiple television projects in development.
As every chef, Caminada really loves cookbooks, but he wanted to make something different, more personal, but on the other hand also something with the potential to tell all those stories that are connected with his work at Schauenstein and other restaurants and his Uccelin foundation. “I like the idea of having a self-controlled platform. Good and varying media work is a vital part of our role – and today’s opportunities make it possible to communicate via a lot of different channels and reach your audience directly”, he adds.
His magazine is available on his website and people can subscribe to it. Moreover, it is placed in different bookshops and concept stores in Switzerland.
Creating their own symposiums is also a way for some chefs to discuss food (and other themes related to it) and spread their word for specific groups of people, among cooks, journalists, food market professionals, scholars, and more. Chefs such as Andoni Luis Aduriz (Kitchen Dialogues), Alex Atala (Fruto), and others are embracing their own food seminars. Appointed as the "Ambassador of Irish Food", and recipient of the only Michelin Star awarded in the West of Ireland, chef JP McMahon created Food on the Edge (FOTE) in 2014 to gather international chefs for a two-day food symposium in Galway city. Its main goal is to make good food accessible for everyone.
According to him, sometimes symposiums and chef gatherings can be quite gratuitous. “That's why we try and bring speakers back continually in order for them to get to know Ireland and the other people involved with Food on the Edge. We're building a global community of like-minded people to make food better, and to make our industry and society better”, McMahon points out. He states that chefs need to get out of the kitchen and speak out about food issues. “It's an ethical responsibility. We must be political because the food is always political. Every loaf of bread or hamburger is political because it affects society”, he adds.
The MAD Evolution
One of the pioneers in this area is Danish chef René Redzepi whose food symposium, MAD, has become one of the most acclaimed and disputed of the food world. Since 2011, a red circus-style tent set up throughout the summer days in Copenhagen's Refshaleøen peninsula has been the stage for some of the most important and even controversial discussions and announcements made in recent years in the food industry. Six editions later, it maintains its position as a groundbreaking event, capable of attracting people from all over the world – this year’s edition gathered 600 attendees from 58 different countries, with more than 6,000 people competing to land a ticket.
Now, making MAD reach more people is one of the main goals of the symposium, led by Melina Shannon-DiPietro, its executive director, and right hand to Redzepi. Arguably it has also become an impactful food movement that surpassed the red tent that made it famous: more than promoting events that take place in other cities, called MAD Mondays, a series of panel discussions, MAD team has just released the MAD Dispatches label, which aims to publish books and other printed editions with the curatorship of MAD and its collaborators, such as the food writer Chris Ying, co-founder and former editor-in-chief at Lucky Peach, which had the function of editing its first book, You and I Eat the Same, now available in bookstores and online.
The goal is to reach a broader audience with books. MAD Dispatches brings MAD approach into a new format. “Each volume of Dispatches will unpack to a single urgent and interesting topic from the food world and, like the Symposium itself, encourage readers to think about food in new ways and to take action as part of a global food and cooking community”, Shanon-DiPietro explains. Ying tells that he is already cooking up the next edition, to be published next fall, which will focus on how some recipes influenced different cultures and even chefs in different periods of time – creating mutual inspirations. MAD is now promoting MAD Mondays in key cities to celebrate MAD Dispatches.
“We're here to inspire and assist the restaurant industry. Our ambition is to transform our food system by giving chefs, servers, and restaurateurs the skills, community, time, and space to create real and sustainable change in their restaurants, in their communities, and across the world”, Shannon-DiPietro adds. A huge ambition shared with many other chefs that, just like Redzepi, noticed that their restaurants have become too small to spread their words.