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Oct 23, 2017

“Food on the Edge is a two day symposium that takes place annually in Galway city, Ireland. It is for chefs & food enthusiasts all around the world who want to create a better global network.  Food on the Edge is a coming together of chefs to listen, talk and debate about the future of food in our industry and on our planet.”

The description doesn’t mention tourism or food tourism or visitors or travel or experiences or any of those things I spend a lot of my time thinking about.  Nonetheless, it was my interest in food tourism that prompted me to invest in a 2 day trip to Galway and a 2 day ticket to this intriguing event.  What an opportunity!  Over 50 leading chefs from around the world each sharing 15 minutes of wisdom with food mortals like me??!  I wanted to firstly admire these food messiahs (blinded by the celebrity of it all!).  I wanted to go along and learn about current trends and thoughts in the world of food that would be relevant to tourism.  I then wanted to soak in all that was being said, distil it and apply it to my work in food tourism.  I planned to enhance my knowledge so I could grow my understanding and expertise so that I could then share it with others.  

All very earnest and noble, eh?  When the first speaker, Dominic McSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide, told us that a child dies from hunger every 5 seconds, my perspective changed.  Suddenly food tourism appeared extremely privileged and, dare I say it, frivolous.  As the talks took off from there, I continued to be nudged and occasionally shaken out of my own little world and aspirations. 

The reality is that I didn’t learn a whole lot about food tourism over the two days.   I realised early that I was at a food symposium, not a tourism one (just as it had been advertised, funnily enough). I appreciated quickly that I had signed up to observe conversations of chefs with chefs and that any reference to tourism would be incidental and passing.  So I shed my expectations for my own professional development and opted instead to just listen. 

It was a gift – the gift of time to just stop and listen.   

It was a true pleasure to hear over 50 accomplished people share their various histories, projects, stories, ambitions, concerns, disappointments and frustrations.  I was delighted to hear from more than 50 people who had taken the time to craft their thoughts into a 15 minute talk that would encourage others to see things just a little bit differently.

I gained the gift of perspective. 

So here are my top quotes from Food on the Edge 2017.  They made me stop and think when I heard them, they changed my perspective in some way.  Have a read, but slowly (I respectfully suggest!).  Maybe just pause over each one, let the thought sink in and speak to you. 

1.     “We’re the worst generation ever for feeding people.”  JP McMahon, Ireland.

2.     “500 million small scale farmers produce 80% of the food in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa” Dominic McSorley, Ireland.

3.     “I didn’t really have dreams when I was young.  You know, in ambitious families you don’t have them.” Ana Ros, Slovenia.

4.      “It’s about the altogetherness of what you’re doing…Passion is the hardest thing to get and it always rises to the top.  You need to have respect and belief if you want to get passion”, Niall McKenna, Northern Ireland.

5.     “It was like cooking inside a burning building”, Ashley Palmer Watts, England.

6.     “It’s those closest to us who are least likely to accept us…we had created a local audience that sat somewhere between ambivalent and hostile”, Christopher Kostow, California.

7.     “The Pressure of the Michelin… I got my first star, that made me not a very nice person.  When I got the 2nd star, that’s when I become proper terrible”, Daniel Clifford, England.

8.     “I went from searching for validation to validating myself….challenging the subtle racism in the food world”, Abeer Naijar, Chicago.

9.     “Shop better, cook better, eat better”, Angela Hartnett, England.

10.  “We will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”, quote from Martin Luther King shared by Anna Haugh, Ireland.

11.  “You shouldn’t eat it unless you’re prepared to kill it…we need to respect the death of the animal”, James Viles, Australia.

12.  “We’re a society of food prostitutes and supermarkets are our pimps”, James Viles, Australia.

13.  “There’s never a point where sustainability is finished”, JP McMahon, Ireland (who was quoting somebody else I believe!).

14.  “If your life’s work can be accomplished in a lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough”, quote from Wes Jackson shared by Matt Orlando, Denmark.

15.  “Food Pyramids are not based on science”, Domini Kemp, Ireland.

16.  “Stop making stupid people famous”, Joanna Blythman, England.

17.  “Silence against systemic problems is consent…the food system is a reflection of systemic inequality”, Saqib Keval, California.

18.  “The shaming of Asian Food”, Victor Llong, Australia.

19.  “I see you, little boy”, Margo Janse, South Africa.

20.  “I hope to call myself a recovering workaholic someday”, Nicolai Norregaard, Denmark.

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