Chefs David McMillan and Frédéric Morin of Montreal restaurant Joe Beef gave an interview to HuffPo Canada in which they were highly critical of cool kid food fests like René Redzepi's annual Copenhagen conference, the MAD Symposium. McMillan and Moran were actually scheduled to speak at the MAD Symposium this year, and were on the schedule for Feast PDX as well. They pulled out of both, because, as Morin said, "I don't think that we think is important enough, sitting on a log in the middle of a circus tent talking to people about it... Fame, it's killing everybody. Everybody wants to be famous, everybody wants to have a famous doughnut."
And McMillan agrees, saying "It's people's dreams to do that, it's not to us, no disrespect to any of them there. We both agree we have nothing to say or care to say about what we do to anyone." McMillan says they got into cooking because they were interested in craftsmanship, and could have just as easily been "wood workers, gardeners, furniture makers, cabinet makers, mechanics."
So what's the issue? Mostly the duo thinks food is not worthy of the attention lavished on it; in Morin's words it's "eight hours short of it being shit." McMillan remarks on the contrast of hearing that Alex Atala beheaded a chicken on stage at MAD while wearing a t-shirt that reads, "Death Happens," and then reading about tragedies in Syria moments later.
Fred: And it's only food...whether it's olive oil on your asparagus or whether it's butter, whether it's hot or cold, whether there's enough salt, too little or too much, it's only food. You're eight hours short of it being shit?.anyone sitting down talking about food like it's super political while there's 100,000 people dying in Syria...gathering proof that there were chemical weapons used on kids...
Dave: Alex Atala (beheaded) a chicken at Mad symposium on stage wearing a T-shirt that says "Death Happens" and while when I change applications on my phone and go to read the news, all I see is mothers holding their dead gassed babies. I have trouble taking anyone in my industry seriously that speaks on stage about how death happens. I don't want to be associated with that.
Los Angeles food truck king Roy Choi, actually, made similar points while speaking at MAD this year. Choi informed the group of chefs that they're "sucking our own dicks" and that "We really think we're feeding a lot of people and changing the world, but really we're only feeding a small [portion of] the populace." He encouraged them to give back to their communities.
Is this the beginning of blowback against the traveling chef festival circuit? Will more chefs opt out of these high-end international events, or are McMillan and Morin alone in their distaste for this type of conference? Stay tuned.