With a bewildering array of high profile speakers and themes, Food on the Edge was hard to avoid yesterday for anyone on social media. The overall theme for 2017 is Action and Reaction, but speakers on Monday drilled down into most of the issues facing the restaurant and food world in 2017.
From ways of coping with the global restaurant staff shortage with a call to bring back apprenticeships from Niall McKenna from of James St. South; to the importance of mental health in the kitchen from Anna Haugh. Haugh told some harrowing stories about bullying she has seen and experienced and “The hot tears contrasting with the cold air when you cry in the walk-in,” and how she feels guilt at not standing up for herself more as a junior chef – bullying is of course yet another reason for the chef shortage as chefs move out of the industry to less stressful jobs.
Broader issues discussed included the persistence of famine contrasted with the the problem of obesity caused by the western diet – a diet that is being exported all over the world.
Education and the need to bring cooking and food culture into the classroom and some inspirational essays on the future of food written by local school children was also discussed. The next generation came into focus with a Eurotoques Young Chefs panel speaking about their view of the future of food in Ireland. Other topics included lessons to be learned from Finland’s food and restaurant culture, a demand to protect Ireland’s raw milk cheeses and a call from Stefan Griesbach of Gannet Fishmongers to change Ireland’s fish culture.
Emma Bengtsson of New York’s Aquavit spoke on the importance of the family dinner, Angela Hartnett spoke on ‘a chef’s responsibility,’ and among the chefs telling their inspirational stories were LA’s Niki Nakayama who has shone a new light on traditional Japanese Kaiseki dining and Ana Roš from Slovenia, who has proven you can find inspirational ingredients in every corner of the world.
Day two coincides with World Mental Health Day and will bring further focus to this issue and also on strategies for change, with star speakers including Joanna Blythman and Magnus Nilsson from much lauded Faviken.