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The history of Thai street food, democratic gastronomy in Brazil and the importance of food trucks in Mexico city. These are some of the highlights from day two of Mesamerica 2014, the food congress organised by chef Enrique Olvera.
Day two saw presentations from David Thompson from Nahm in Bangkok - number one on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List. Rodrigo Oliveira from Mocoto in Sao Paolo and the American chef Eric Werner who runs the Hartwood restaurant in Tulum, Mexico.
Here’s a run down of some of the highlights from day two of Mesamerica 2014.
Eric Werner discussed his fascination with Mayan ingredients, the Mayan practice of growing vegetables and herbs and their thousand year traditions and rituals. He read exerts from the book The Modern Maya written by Macduff Everton.
He spoke about how Mayans have passed on their cooking techniques from generation to generation and how the opportunism of Mayans is something he finds inspiring. He spoke about how everything in Mayan society is done for a purpose and how they build “intimate, complex and profound” sustainable communities.
He used the Mayans as a perfect example to understand the true meaning of growing local, explaining that people are now trying to develop their own systems of growing when the Mayans already provide us with a great reference point.
Werner finished by talking about the restaurant he built with his wife in Yucatan and the steep learning curve they had to tackle when opening their zero carbon establishment.
Rodrigo Olvera opened his talk by expressing his view that “the table should be an example of inclusiveness” before showing a day in the life style video of his Mocoto restaurant in Brazil - a place that welcomes peasants and presidents in the same way, all seated together, all fed exactly the same.
He explained the history of the family restaurant, how it was opened by his parents 40 years ago and how his approach at the restaurant involves "trying something new everyday." He spoke about the importance of creative innovation among young chefs explaining that “tradition is innovation that prevailed” and that young chefs have to work at building a wealth of knowledge about fire, herbs, dough, cheeses, vegetables - “there’s a lot that needs to be done”.
One of the highlights of the day was a discussion from Edgar Nunez, Maricarmen Linares and Bernardo Bukantz - a group of young chefs and entrepreneurs working to develop a regulated food truck cooperative in Mexico City.
They started by explaining how food trucks work and how they can have a beneficial effect on the future of food in Mexico. They explained how trucks should provide restaurant quality food on the street with a strong eye on hygiene, citing the fact that in 2010 there were 357 million cases of intestinal infections recorded across Mexico.
The group have formed a cooperative of around 40 food truck owners who are working to create a self regulated and highly organised movement. They talked about the issues of classification and how food trucks can not legally operate on the streets - a problem they’re trying to address by holding talks with government officials.
The young students in the audience asked lots of questions about the trucks, expressing their excitement at Edgar’s statement “we believe culinary success does not have to happen in a restaurant.”
A TASTE OF THAI
David Thompson - fresh from being picked as the owner of Asia’s best restaurant - discussed Thai street food and how certain dishes were created. He explained that the industrialisation of Bangkok is one of the largest contributing factors to the rise of street food in Thailand, after farmers left the fields to find work and needed something to eat.
Thompson said that Thai’s love food - either eating it, cooking it, talking about it and, if none of the above, dreaming about it. He explained that street food is one of the best indicators of immigration in a country and how Chinese migrants to Thailand had a massive impact on the food scenes, bringing noodles and even chopsticks - widely used across Thailand today.
There were a few gasps from the crowd when he said that chili in Thailand is way hotter than Mexico but stood by his statement - even when the names of Mexican chilies were being hurled at him by the crowd.
Thompson showed off his extensive knowledge of Thai cooking and just why the Australian born chef has risen to the top of the Thai culinary ladder.
A TASTE OF SOUND
Day two came to an end with an inspirational performance from the Mexican band Café Tacvba. They were invited on stage by chef Enrique Olvera who explained just how important music is to him, to his team and to the running of his Pujol restaurant.
Café Tacvba created an emotive soundtrack using audio samples recored within the Pujol kitchen. The band played for 30 minutes while Olvera and his team created a selection of dishes for a few lucky audience members.
Here's a video interveiw with Olvera explaining Mesamerica:
Join us tomorrow for the third and final day of Mesamerica 2014.