What’s The Most Important Food Festival

The Lempert Report
September 30, 2016

It is Denmark’s annual culinary twist – the MAD Symposium

MAD is the Danish word for food and is a not-for-profit organization that aims to spread ideas, forge new relationships, discuss injustices and update – in real time – the global playbook for an ethical, sustainable food culture, according to a report in the NY Times.

The way it works is you have to apply to be a participant. This year there were over 1,500 applications – but only 350 made the cut and they represented 43 countries.

On August 28 & 29, they went by canal boat to an undeveloped peninsula jutting between the Baltic Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Their mission was to answer two questions:

  • What do we hope our kitchens will be like in the future?
  • And what can we do today to make those dreams a reality?

One truth emerged: The answer is not in the food, but in the people behind it.

Jose Andres, the LA based Spanish American chef who is credited with bringing the small plates dining concept to the US, and winner of the National Humanities Medal was one of the keynotes. He implored cooks, restaurateurs, suppliers, food writers and tastemakers to “provide for others what you want for yourself.” The two big issues on MAD’s main stage were: the mental and physical health of industry insiders, and the importance of nurturing the food community’s next generation. All told there were over 100 different sessions.

The future of food expos and symposiums haven’t reached our shores, or our association leaders just yet. The closest we have come is South Bites at SxSW. Until we stop counting the number of booths we sell, or faking just how many attendees visit we will never achieve the energy, collaboration, openness and success of symposium like MAD. It’s about the content and nurturing of the next generation in our industry. Not the industry self-propaganda. 

The founder of MAD, René Redzepi said it best:  “Jealousy and entitlement poison a movement. Our trade needs more friendship, collaboration, caretaking, guiding. The pay-it-forward philosophy might sound idealistic, but I know it works. I’m here to be inspired, provoked and fueled to attack it.”