Jody Eddy reports from MAD Foodcamp in Copenhagen, Denmark, a two-day symposium assembled by chef René Redzepi of the famed restaurant Noma. (“Mad” means food in Danish.) Here’s her account from yesterday’s Day 1. Check back tomorrow for a wrap-up from the high-powered food confab.
Torrential rain poured down throughout the day upon a massive blue and red tent where 250 culinary luminaries including chefs, farmers, foragers and leading food scientists gathered for a symposium to discuss how to build a healthier and more sustainable food culture. Outside the “big top” on a 55,000-square-meter hay-baled meadow jutting up against Copenhagen Harbor, a market of leading food producers offered demonstrations and tastings of everything from rye bread malt and juniper wood tea to seaweed ice and hay beer. A defiant bonfire blazed in one corner, warming the hundreds of attendees who braved the rain and ensuing mud to attend René Redzepi’s inaugural MAD Foodcamp, an agrarian celebration of nature, farming and food.
Back inside the tent, Redzepi, decked out in a MAD Foodcamp T-shirt, jeans and rain boots, kicked off the day with a rousing speech encouraging attendees to use their platforms in the culinary industry to shape a more natural food world and seek solutions to the mounting crises facing the food industry. One of the first presenters was the British forager Miles Irving, who humbly admitted he was nervous to stand before an audience that included Harold McGee, Andoni Aduriz, David Chang and Sean Brock. His nerves were quelled when someone reassured him: “Don’t be nervous, you’re just dealing with a lot of goodwill at this symposium.” It was sage advice evident in every exuberant round of applause that exploded in the tent throughout the day, drowning out the persistent rain.
The Tokyo chef Yoshihiri Narisawa discussed Japanese terroir in the context of his restaurant’s dishes, which include a soup made of soil from his homeland. Iñaki Aizpitarte of Paris’s Chateaubriand presented his take on parsley risotto made from a sea plant meticulously cut to resemble arborio rice that infused the earthy brightness of the parsley with a briny hint of the sea. Daniel Patterson of Coi distributed beet gummy bears to the audience during his presentation on the history of beets. Patterson’s most poignant contribution came during a Q&A, when he offered his take on how to combat processed foods and agri-business. “Make food delicious and create sensory memories that makes a person crave it,” he told the crowd. “Give children a taste memory of what real food tastes like. In one generation the industrialized food system has taken away these memories, but this also means that in one generation we can reintroduce them again.”
Patterson’s was one of many inspirational high notes throughout the day. Another came from Kamal Mouzawak, creator of Souk el Tayeb, Lebanon’s first farmers’ market, during his presentation “Make Food Not War.” He reflected, “Food is the best expression of yourself, your history, your roots and your land. Tasting the food [that] another has prepared enables you to absorb the food memories of another person, connecting you on a deeper level.”
The day was rounded out by Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken, who outlined the myriad ways he preserves vegetables during northern Sweden’s long, harsh winters. Nilsson was followed by Copenhagen-based researcher Jacqueline McGlade, discussing a program she created to train the homeless to become beekeepers; enabling them to earn an income while simultaneously countering the devastating effects colony colony collapse disorder. The day ended buoyantly with the Australian based chef Ben Shewry’s presentation, “The Cycle of Love,” which included the building of a bonfire on a makeshift beach on the stage to echo a film he presented about passing the joys of foraging onto his young son. It was an emotional end to a rain-soaked but invigorating first day of MAD Foodcamp. Day two’s stellar line-up of presenters includes Michel Bras, Gaston Acurio and Massimo Bottura promises to be just as provoking. Rain or shine.