SEPTEMBER 12, 2016 | By JASON TESAURO
At the fifth MAD Symposium — Denmark’s annual culinary twist on the Butterfly Effect, where small acts lead to large outcomes — a young cook from India, Ashwami Manjrekar, landed a gig with Rosio Sanchez, the Mexican-American chef from Chicago who opened a now-famous taqueria in Torvehallerne. That two women from disparate cultures on opposite sides of the earth found common ground over tacos under a circus tent is just one example of how MAD Symposium is arguably the most impactful food movement around.
Founded by Noma restaurant’s chef/owner/visionary, René Redzepi, MAD (the Danish word for “food”) 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. This year, organizers pared the guest list from 1,500 applicants to a vital 350 catalysts from 43 countries who promised to engage, collaborate, expostulate, break bread — and break barriers.
From August 28-29, attendees were delivered by kanalrundfart (canal boat) to an undeveloped peninsula jutting between the Baltic Sea and Atlantic Ocean, to explore the MAD5 theme of Tomorrow’s Kitchen via 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? After hot debate, cold beer, laughs, tears and enough Norwegian mackerel to trigger a tent-wide omega-3 brain-boost, one truth emerged: The answer is not in the food, but in the people behind it. Barefoot in rolled-up pants, the DC-based chef/humanitarian José Andrés, one of this year’s keynote speakers, paced over pine straw laid inside the not-for-profit organization’s signature red circus tent — where he delivered a TED Talk–like sermon imploring cooks, restaurateurs, suppliers, food writers and tastemakers to “provide for others what you want for yourself.” Heads nodded and fingers snapped in united affirmation.
With nearly 100 different sessions running throughout the symposium, countless secondary topics – from millennial chefs and microbial terroir to alpha females and food waste – spurred important sidebars. Yet, the two big issues on MAD5’s main stage were unmistakable: the mental and physical health of industry insiders, and the importance of nurturing the food community’s next generation. “If you want to go fast, go alone,” Andrés said. “If you want to go far, go together.”