The world's top chefs discuss the future of food at Galway food conference

Taking its inspiration from TED’s 15-minute talks, a bold new food conference has invited the world’s top chefs to Galway to discuss the future of food. Michelle Darmody meets some of the key players.

OVER the past decade Galway has become an interesting and lively food destination, its beautiful location on the coast of the Atlantic has been taken advantage of by a number of restauranteurs. 

From Jess Murphy in Kai to Enda McEvoy in Loam, each has a unique style, but what they all have in common is that they have made the most of the rich, natural ingredients in their vicinity — a healthy community attitude that seems to prevail in the Galway food world with businesses, chefs and producers supporting and encouraging each other. 

I have made my fair share of food trips to Galway over the past year, from a beautifully memorable evening in an old boat shed for Dillisk to a Lebanese feast, cooked up by visiting chef Kamal Mouzawak in Ard Bia. I have had great meals, great chats, and fun evenings by the Corrib.

JP McMahon, owner and chef in Aniar, has been travelling the world as the Irish ambassador for “Cook It Raw”. 

On his travels, he has been meeting chefs from many different backgrounds. 

He decided to start persuading them to come and join him in the city of tribes to celebrate and discuss the food that they are all so passionate about. 

Food on the Edge takes place over two days: Monday October 19 and Tuesday October 20. 

It is a coming-together of top international chefs and food leaders for a two-day food symposium. 

The fact that it is taking place on a Monday and Tuesday is particularly useful for people within the catering industry, this is a chefs’ symposium intended to inspire Irish chefs of the next generation and hopefully show that they can stay in their native country and thrive.

That fun and community that Galway has developed will be a great incubator for discussions and thoughts to be shared, and for ideas on food to be discussed on and off the stage. 

JP has mentioned that persuading chefs to come to Ireland was not too difficult, they signed up to make the trip very willingly, some from as far a field as Canada and Australia. André Chiang from Singapore and Elena Arzak from Spain will be among the attendees. 

The festival is only in its first year, but has an extremely impressive line-up, a mix of Irish and visiting chefs will all take to the stage and give their opinion on “The Future of Food”. 

The format is simple, 15 minutes each to communicate their point. 

This is taken from the hugely successful format of TED talks, it is a perfect way for the audience to get an insight into the mind-frame of a speaker and forces that speaker to leave out the waffle, to practice before they take to stage and to give the audience a concise rendition of their ideas.

It is important for all chefs and food producers to look to the future of our food industry. In Ireland we will soon have some of the highest obesity levels in Europe. 

I asked a number of participating chefs how we can encourage the next generation to cook more meals from scratch and eat a healthier variety of foods. 

One thing all of the chefs agreed is that we need to educate children from a young age, to make food exciting for them and for them to feel part of the cooking process. 

Ross Lewis admits it is a difficult challenge and particularly in light of the constant encouragement of advertising to eat junk foods.

“Encouraging children to engage with food from a young age by using a small garden, or vegetable boxes so they understand the life cycle and where the food they eat comes from. 

"There are so many farmers markets around the country now that can be accessed in order to show children the amazing produce we have and by helping them to cook things for themselves so they have a sense of pride and achievement in having cooked what they have bought.”

Organisations like GIY Ireland, Slow Food and Eurotoques all have programmes that try to encourage more food education in schools. Tom Aikens is right in saying: “We are all so busy that a very basic skill of feeding oneself appears sometimes irrelevant and almost becomes a last priority in life.”

The symposium aims to bring our Irish food culture to the fore, traditions such as smoking, curing, fishing that have begun to fade with the past generation need to be preserved and teaching a new enthusiastic group of food producers will secure our traditions for the future.

Seeing the quick rise to fame of Mark Moriarty gives hope for the future of the cheffing industry in Ireland. 

Mark has achieved great success over the past year winning San Pellegrino’s best young chef in the UK and Ireland at a major and highly-competitive competition in London, he followed this by being awarded a major Eurotoque award and then the World Young Chef of 2015 in Milan.

He will be taking to the stage to join his more elder statesmen and women to give his view on the development of Ireland as the next big food destination.

Three main priorities have been cropping up in my discussions with the participating chefs are the teaching our young to cook from scratch, the use natural ingredients and paying the farmer a fair and respectful price for those ingredients and finally to encourage the preservation of traditional food techniques.

Food on the Edge takes place on October 19 and 20.

www.foodontheedge.ie/tickets.html 

The world's top chefs discuss the future of food at Galway food conference

TOM AIKENS, was the youngest British chef ever to be awarded two Michelin stars. He has not always had business success, but has been lauded as one of the most talented people cooking in England, which has lead to cookbooks and a career in television.

Who inspired you to start a career in food?

My mother was definitely a key element in my decision to become a chef.

In fact, for as long as I can remember — probably since the age of eight or so — my twin brother and I were helping her out in the kitchen.

She would involve us in making cakes and home baking, or just weighing things out, but we were always on hand to help to lick out the occasional sticky raw cake mix that was left in the bottom of the bowl.

I have a very vivid memory of her making milk bread on the weekends and always home roasts, which were always delicious, then finished off with a nice homemade apple pie.

Living in Norfolk, we had a large back garden where we grew a lot of our own fruit and vegetables. As a result, from an early age I got to learn about seasonality and how to grow and cook great produce.

We grew lots of soft fruits from strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries which were mostly turned into jam and all types of vegetables. Fads in cooking come and go but quality, nutritious ingredients are the key to all good cooking.

How can we can encourage more vegetable growers and artisan butchers in Ireland?

We need to communicate much more about the benefits of sourcing your ingredients locally and that’s precisely what I am planning to talk about at Food on the Edge. Chefs understand how important it is to know and support your local suppliers, so you have that constant and long-term relationship with them.

I think the same approach needs to be taken in shopping: we all love the ease of going to supermarkets as opposed to the individual grocer, fishmonger or butcher as it’s all about convenience. So if we support the individuals more it should have a far more positive impact.

The format of the Food on the Edge conference is 15 minutes per speaker, has it proven difficult for you to keep within this timeframe, or a relief?

Food and cooking being my first passions, I could speak about it for ages but I think the 15-minute limit is a good way to stay concise and structure your speech.

If you have to throw a simple lazy meal what would it be?

Baked potato with ricotta and crushed avocado.

What is your go-to comfort food in or outside of your home?

I would go for a simple mac and cheese.

What is the most useful cooking implement in your kitchen?

Knives. I always take my own knives with me in any kitchen/country.

The world's top chefs discuss the future of food at Galway food conference

CLARE SMYTH, is from Co Antrim and works in England at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. She was the first woman to gain and hold three Michelin stars and has since been awarded an MBE for her services to the hospitality industry.

Who inspired you to start a career in food?

Many great chefs inspired me to follow a career in food, in particular Anton Mosimann, Gordon Ramsay, and Marco Pierre White.

The format of the Food on the Edge conference is 15 minutes per speaker, has it proven difficult for you to keep within this timeframe, or a relief?

It has been a relief to me to keep within the 15-minute timeframe. I am a chef — not a professional public speaker — and I am passionate about what I do, therefore I prefer to keep things short and sweet, succinct and to the point.

Fads in cooking come and go but quality, nutritious ingredients are the key to all good cooking. How can we can encourage more vegetable growers and artisan butchers in Ireland?

We can encourage more vegetable growers and artisan butchers in Ireland by being willing to pay a fair price for their produce. It costs more to produce than many people are prepared to pay and farmers need to be able to produce enough to provide for themselves and their families.

If you have to throw a simple lazy meal what would it be?

My simple, lazy meal would be roast chicken and salad.

What is your go-to comfort food in or outside of your home?

Spaghetti bolognese is my comfort food.

The world's top chefs discuss the future of food at Galway food conference

MARK MORIARTY, is just 23 years old and was this year crowned San Pellegrino best young chef in the world at an event in Milan.

Who inspired you to start a career in food?

Watching the original River Cottage series by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall inspired me to start a career in food. I used to get up early and watch him on Saturday mornings, he is a man I would love to meet.

The format of the Food on the Edge conference is 15 minutes per speaker, has it proven difficult for you to keep within this timeframe, or a relief?

Fifteen minutes is perfect timing, I am not interesting enough to hold people’s attention beyond that!

If you have to throw together a simple lazy meal what would it be?

Simple lazy meal is a rich pasta carbonara. I eat it and go into a food coma.

What is your go-to comfort food in or outside of your home?

Go to comfort food would be lasagna at home with loads of that cheap garlic bread.

What is the most useful cooking implement in your kitchen?

Most useful cooking implement is a small serrated paring knife I bought in the butchers for €3, a must for every kitchen, I use it for everything.

The world's top chefs discuss the future of food at Galway food conference

ROSS LEWIS,  is head chef at Michelin star eatery Chapter One, Dublin.

Who inspired you to start a career in food?

My mother, Margaret, was a great source of inspiration when I was younger, she’s a wonderful cook. As my career progressed, chefs such as Olivier Roellinger in Cancale and Pierre Gagnaire were always hugely inspiring, natural, clean flavours with a real respect for the raw materials.

Fads in cooking come and go but quality, nutritious ingredients are the key to all good cooking. How can we can encourage more vegetable growers and artisan butchers in Ireland?

I think this will come down to the farming community and government agencies engaging in a co-ordinated plan for rewarding diversity. There has been a massive surge in the growth of organic farming methods and in artisan produce so the message is a very clear one — the appetite is growing for fresh vegetables and good meat and in line with this growers and butchers will be needed to ensure that this continues.

The format of the Food on the Edge conference is 15 minutes per speaker, has it proven difficult for you to keep within this timeframe, or a relief?

I think 15 minutes offers a good timeframe to stick to. I do think that in order to effectively communicate a message there is only a certain window of attention for people so that means a speech delivered succinctly will be important. The TED talks series is a great example of this where they encourage speakers to keep time short and deliver well.

If you have to throw a simple lazy meal what would it be?

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a spinach, celery, spring onion and avocado salad….very tasty!

What is your go-to comfort food in or outside of your home?

I think a good hamburger with organic meat, soft baked bun, and all the trimmings cooked on the barbecue at home has got to be it…really nothing comes near it!

What is the most useful cooking implement in your kitchen?

Temperature probe… invaluable particularly for domestic cooking… saves a well done roast!


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