ATTENTION! CONTAINS REALITY!
Lined up at the entrance of the big red circus tent, the curtains opened as the loud music started, James Hetfield’s voice, ‘can’t remember anything, can’t tell if this is true or dream…’ it was loud, it was dark, and I am following the crowd into the tent, can not see a thing!
On the so called stage, there hung a pig from its feet, blood dripping from its throat on the hay below it. The stage was looking like a forest or a backyard of a home, some lawn, some logs, a big butcher’s block. David Chang walked in with great applause, welcomed us with a small speech, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the pig, so anxious for the next thing to happen. Then it all began! Big bada boom!
Dario Cecchini happened! He just walked on the stage with Hell’s Bells of AC/DC, started cutting the pigs belly and by the time the incision got bigger there hung out the entrails, still attached! Then he started talking about himself, being a butcher and morality…. As the words fell from his mouth, his speech got more genuine and real then his opening act.
He said; no cut is better then other, he said; the heart and blood of the animal is the essence of life, he said RESPECT, good butchers have respect, he said; with a nation full with supermarkets, the butchers are to extinct! His hands are on the entrails of the animal and when he reached inside the cavity he said, I still feel the warmth of the animal, the life, the death, I smell death… When he was telling us about life and death, meaning of killing an animal, respecting the animal, eating it from nose to tail, not leaving any part unused! As if this was not enough he finished his speech reciting Dante’s Inferno by heart!
That is how the first day of MAD Symposium started… There was no place else I wanted to be. So in my humble words:
MAD was RED; The red circus tent vas visible across the town! Red is for feeding our minds and soul, white is for literally feeding us!
MAD was real food; Souk El Tayeb, cooking for us on the first day, mothers and cooks from Beirut… All have different stories, religions, beliefs, one common ground; food! They shared their food with us. Please read more about who they are. Their moto is ‘Make Food Not War’. For all that I know, I was eating kısır, keşkek, beef tongue and many more common geographical dishes… Mission Chinese Food cooked us an amazing lunch the second day, started as a pop up restaurant and multiplied around NYC and SF, raised money for charity.
MAD was questioning; Margot Henderson asking where are all the female chefs, why there are not many women chefs in the kitchen? She divided cooking into two, masculine and feminine; also said regional cooking should be celebrated and cooking a confit of duck in duck fat or in a plastic bag in water, sous vide is not the same. Needless to say, she had the most loveliest introduction; by Fergus Henderson “I am not here to talk about guts, but to introduce my favorite chef, Margot Henderson.”
MAD was gutsier; A 10 year old school girl Martha Payne, changed the world may be more than any of us summoned, her blog NeverSeconds raised consciousness for school meals and the charity she raised more than 130.000.- GBP for her project in Malawi by Mary’s Meals.
MAD was challenging; Diana Kennedy, the author of many Mexican cookbooks, amazed us, standing strong in her 90 and daring the young chefs amongst us ‘do we really need sous vide?’ She challenged everyone to become more sustainable in their restaurants and environments, adding, ‘I judge restaurants by their garbage…’
MAD was reality; Roy Choi, telling us, is food world active but we are still feeding the same people, people who can afford it, like chasing our tail… Do we have the guts to break this cycle? As he did, he broke the rules to feed the people, making us look into other places out of our comfort zones, giving us examples of malnutrition’s effect on success rates at LA hoods.
MAD was Vandana Shiva; telling us about agriculture, seeds, monoculture, how we call unheathy foods smart, how blindness is being treated as knowledge and science, how spinning the cotton saved India, “everyone can spin freedom”…
MAD was refreshing; Pascal Barbot talking about spontaneity in the kitchen working with what his farmers, purveyors been bringing him, changing the menu accordingly, that moment if necessary, to use his instincts, to be spontaneous in he kitchen, not to cook any ordinary dish!
MAD was nature; Roland Bittman, the forager, as Rene Redzepi called him the Santa Claus, how he saved the first winter of Noma, reminding us man are gatherers by nature, and we should go back to nature…
MAD was science; Jason Box telling us about black snow and glaciers, showing us charts, Heribert Watzke talking about gut brains, emotions of gut, our inside is bigger than our outside…
MAD was fermented; Sandor Katz, changing his life when he found out he was HIV+, moving out of the city, started living in a communal land, where he grew everything he ate, and then started fermenting as well… “Because of the disconnection we have with bacteria, we have probio products he said, there is good and bad bacteria, people are afraid of it!”
MAD was classic; The great Alain Ducasse sharing his experiences and standing strong to failure… “Failure is a part of success, if you learn from it” he said, Do not be scared to take risks! “Not the Michelin stars but the collaborators, service, purveyors, guests.. everyone” the great Ducasse added.
MAD was sensual; Rob Reiner talked about how his Chron’s Disease changed his senses, we fed on tubes for 6 months, loosing sensitivity to all food, scents… How he even couldn’t sit at the table with his family, and how cutting food from his life, cut him from human emotions…
MAD was emotional, when The Perennial Plate showed their Turkey video, which I was a contributor in Istanbul, they made me cry, seeing all my food heroes’ faces on screen, smiling, looking at you, it was so intense…
MAD was authenticity; or is it, while this term is questioned by Pulitzer prize winner journalist Jonathan Gold, authenticity changes due to place and traditions…
MAD was more; with Michael Twitty, Josh Whiteland, David Choe (he is an insane person) Ahmed Jama, Barbara Lynch (from bookie to 25 million dollars restaurant groups), Christian Puglisi (how a restaurant can cahnge the neighbourhood), Cynthia Sandberg & David Kinch and Knud Romer (cheers!)…
MAD was coffee in their best behaviour; From Kalita to Espresso to Hairo, From Geisha to Kenia to Yukro… any brewing method, any bean, damn you!
MAD was MAD, after all…. “There is death in every dish.” Alex Atala said, over and over again. “There is death in every dish.” Death Happens. And he killed a chicken right in front of us, first petting then chopping the head off , it was the end of MAD 3.
There is death in every dish.
Biggest thanks to MAD Team, Rene Redzepi, David Chang, Chris Ying, Ali Kürşat Altınsoy, Peter Kreiner and all of your guys, you reminded me that food can change the world, all we need is guts!
NO GUTS, NO GLORY!
p.s. So I am telling you, I just got back from MAD, I have all the power within me there is to a human being!