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Alex Atala Is the Latest Chef to Launch a Serious Food Symposium

The Brazilian food evangelist wants to teach everyone how to feed the world

Photo: Andre Lessa/courtesy FRUTO

You’re not a superstar chef these days unless you also run a cerebral food conference of some kind. So in the footsteps of René Redzepi’s MAD Symposium, Andoni Luis Aduriz’s Kitchen Dialogues, and the recent Farm of Ideas, promoted by Danish chef Christian Puglisi last weekend in Denmark, just to name a few, Brazilian superstar chef Alex Atala has announced plans for “Fruto — the possibilities to feed the world,” which will take place in São Paulo next January.

In partnership with cultural promoter and chef Felipe Ribenboim and the ATÁ Institute — Atala’s organization that promotes Brazilian food diversity — Fruto (“fruit” in Portuguese) will discuss how to feed a world population that will rise to 8.6 billion people by 2050, according to UN estimates.

There will be lectures by 30 minds from different fields — sustainability, science, and gastronomy — for a restricted number of 300 attendees, but the program will be broadcast live through Fruto’s website. Among the presenters: French documentary filmmaker and leading conservationist Céline Cousteau; anthropologist Mark Emil Hermansen, representing NordicFoodLab; Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, a shaman and spokesperson for South America’s Yanomami tribe; ecologist Jerônimo Villas-Bôas, who advocates on behalf of native Brazilian bees; and professional surfer Jon Rose, founder of Waves for Water, a project that provides access to clean water by distributing portable water filters to people in need.

“I’ve been presenter and guest at numerous food symposiums around the globe, from Colombia to Japan, from Denmark to Australia, so I decided to run my own, to talk about things that are really important to me,” Atala says. According to the Chef’s Table star, Fruto isn’t just a food event focused on cooks and chefs. “I want to, for the first time, talk about sustainability, social issues, and even the science behind our food,” he says. “We want to focus on the entire trajectory of food before it reaches the pot: where it comes from, its origin, how and at the expense of which relationships it is produced.” During the two days of Fruto (January 26 and 27), the main goal is to think about food production in a large discussion that will gather cooks, farmers, and members of the big food industry at the same time.

Ribenboim explains that the seminar wants to propose a deeper understanding of food by unveiling the history, biological process, and cultural and social relations of ingredients. “We seek a more multidisciplinary approach to food precisely to try to raise these reflections,” he says. “Rather than planting seeds, we want the conference to bear fruits.”

With the seminar, Atala also wants São Paulo, arguably the most important food city in Latin America, to be a leader in the world’s discussion of food, just as Austin, according to him, became a city that hosts the biggest conversations in technology and innovation. “As one of the largest and most important cities in the world,” Atala says, “São Paulo needs to address how we should feed the world in the future and lead this.”

Inside Bio, Brazilian Superstar Alex Atala’s Ambitious Take on All-Day Dining [E]
All Alex Atala Coverage [E]