Mad5 symposium in Copenhagen ended almost a month ago but I’m still digesting what happened to me there. I left Barcelona like I was in a dream. My workshop about food waste was accepted in one of the most exclusive food conferences in the world. I heard there were 1500 applications and just 350 made the cut.I was about to meet some of the most influential and powerful chefs in the world. I debuted in this world just a few years ago and my main concern was: “will I be able to cope?”
Focusing on my work and absorbing as much as I could : the atmosphere, the energy, the positive environment at MAD5.
I wanted to learn, to be inspired, to get freshly motivated.
Listen, observe, learn was my mantra for 2 days. And I was not disappointed at all. Every meal or workshop was a little lesson about something new in the food world. I met the most interesting and committed people. I eager their stories and wished I had not just 2 days, but 2 months or 2 years to sit with each and every one of them to listen to their passionate recounts.
I met a female farmer from Singapore that told me about the 1% of available land for growing food in her home country. A native American trying to revive his forgotten ethnic culinary tradition because, despite living in the most powerful nation in the world, in their territories there are just convenience stores to shop in. A philippine original chef fighting food injustice with the magic of culinary arts, an Italian guy working to find new food sources for the future..and the list can go on and on…
I was so captured that most of the times I forgot to talk about what I was doing, and why I was there. For the first time, I forgot about myself and dove deeply into other people extraordinary-everyday stories. And it was great!
Listening to the keynote speakers though, gave me the key of what I was indeed taking away from Mad 5 into my heart and my life at home. The more I stayed at Mad 5 the more I filtered those talks and tells in my story. My path, the way that, ultimately, led me there. And I understood that in the end, we all are the same. Equally capable of doing good things, great things, if we really believe in them and are ready to put hard work to achieve them. The speakers were taking the stage one after another and they all started talking to my heart and into my personal story.
Jaques Pepin was the first one on Mad 5 stage. I listened to his talk while watching him working alongside to his daughter. What do you expect from such and experienced and famous chef ? Maybe exuberate proudness and a touch of his French charm? Jaques Pepin was moving his hands while showing us that at the end of the day “being a craftsman” is what makes you able to move things, to dominate ingredients and work the magic in the kitchen. No matter how famous you are and if you have 20 sous chef in your kitchen, it always came to the fact if you are cutting that meat and preparing that dish with your own hand. Images of my grandmother’s kitchen came to my mind. Her creativity with ingredients. Her unbelievable ability to turn things into new ones. Her proudness in showing me how she could transform a piece of furniture or a dress into something new. She was a craftsman, and thanks to her, I’m too.
As the matter of fact, it was Rene Redzepi himself that told us that he hired a grandma to make sure the MAD team was happy and pampered all the time. It was a joy for me, coming from a long struggle of trying to balance work with family, to spot Rene’s family around or some other staff’s relatives stopping by with their kids.
My daunting question on the 2-day meeting was : what makes those people so special, how they manage to find their way to do what they love and be successful? I don’t know if I have an answer to that. But by watching them I saw all of them firm in their believing. With a look in their eyes that was really going further, like it was fixed in a point in the future they could imagine, visualize and reach. I felt they could explore their passion deeply and took the time to understand why they want to do what they do and what could lead them there.
April Bloomfield made a remark about “Don’t be singular”. It spoke to me about the importance of sharing with people, go out, be inspired and inspire other people. This is so important for me in particular because food waste is mostly a problem of wrong perception and lack of awareness. Spread the word, ignite motivation is such a critical part of my job. I designed my entire workshop around this for MAD5. “Find your inner food waste fighter ” was a path trough personal motivation to find the intersection of it with the enormous problem of food waste. I hope I was able to ignite this flame into my participant’s life. Make them understand how important is take this task into their business purpose and embedded it into their strategy for a more sustainable future in their home communities. It was a pleasure to me seeing my sessions full and have all the attention of such a great audience.
Another idea that firmly came to my mind during the talk was that we don’t recognize ourselves in this food system and we want to change it. We need to change it in order to secure a future for the next generations. And as Trevor Gulliver reminded to me “a restaurant is where the risk is”and “We don’t change the future, we make the future”. If you are available to put your life on a line and create something good not just for you but for the people around you, your team, your community, there, right there, there is a restaurant.
But it was probably Carlo Petrini’s speech that hit me the most. Maybe because he is Italian. We share the same sense on why the cooking, the family and love are so connected in our culture. Maybe because, since when I left my career at the side to take care of my kids and husband, I keep looking for a deeper sense to my routinary life as a mom. The chores, the house, the kitchen. That’s probably why when he said “cooking has to be first and foremost an act of love” a tear of joy came to my eyes.
What do those people have in common with me? Nothing or all. What the world be without visionaries? Isn’t the first place where future take shape, a man’s or women’s mind? We need them to get inspired. To clear the horizon and take that inspiration far in millions of differents places.
Looking at them and working for a better future make us proud of being nothing more of just ordinary people.