Just a few moments ago, Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi took to the stage at MAD4 and announced that they will be launching loco’l, a concept that aims to supplant the fast-food chains and convenience stores that separate our youth from the taste of real food. The first branch will launch on the west coast in the spring of 2015. Here’s Patterson on a few details. Stay tuned for more news on this collaboration and its efforts:

Two years ago I started teaching cooking classes to kids from an organization in San Francisco called Larkin Street Youth Services. Larkin Street takes in young adults who have been living on the streets, and provides them with food, housing, counseling, and job training. Many of them had subsisted their whole lives on processed food; few had ever cooked before. I showed them simple, tasty dishes from diverse cultural traditions that they could recreate on their own. Watching the students discover food cooked with good ingredients was a revelation.

Inspired by that experience, I formed a non-profit foundation called The Cooking Project. Through a series of free classes, we not only teach young people how to cook, but also the value of gathering around the table. Over the last year we have connected with many other non-profit and social justice organizations, but I knew from the beginning that no matter how much it grew, the foundation wouldn’t be enough to create widespread change. I needed to start a business that could grow quickly and supplant the fast-food chains and convenience stores that separate our youth from the taste of real food. I envisioned a new kind of fast-food restaurant that served real food in a nice environment, and which could contribute to the neighborhood around it in myriad ways. For the same price as corporate chains, we could cook dishes so compelling and delicious that the people who went there would begin to crave more nutritious food. It was a great concept, but I had no idea where to start.

My answer lay to the south, in Los Angeles, where Roy Choi was bringing people together from all over the city around Kogi—food trucks that served tasty, hard-to-categorize food. As Kogi’s reputation and success grew, so did Roy’s drive to feed more people. He began opening brick and mortar places that improved their communities, like 3 Worlds Cafe, a fruit and juice bar in South Central, an area of the city that lacks real, nutritious food.

Choi at MAD3

Last year at MAD, Roy talked about hunger. About the fact that so many people in the U.S. don’t have enough to eat. About all of the neighborhoods that have no access to real food, despite being close to more affluent communities that do. The invisible barrier, he called it. Roy spoke passionately about social responsibility and creating cultural change, saying that cooks could and should do more. He challenged the chefs there to use their skills to bring real food to people in need. He said everything I was thinking. After MAD, I called him and told him my idea.

Together, we are making our vision a reality in the form of loco’l. The first branch of this new restaurant company will open in San Francisco in spring of 2015, and the second in Los Angeles a few months later. We want you to see the final product for yourselves when we open, but below is an excerpt from the raw, stream-of-consciousness mission statement that we sent to our designers, to give you an idea of what we’re planning.

This would not have happened without MAD, but MAD itself would not have happened without the evolution of the role of a chef in today’s society. Long hours and hard work will always be a requisite for being a good chef. But now food is culturally valued in a way that has opened up new possibilities. High-level chefs have an opportunity to do much more than just cook for the few people who can afford it. We can create real change, in this case by building a better business. As much as thoughtful articles and speeches and books are important in shifting how we think, they are not going to solve the food problems we have in our country. Our government certainly won’t solve them, either. We have to act if we want change. If we can open profitable restaurants that are inexpensive and serve delicious food made with real ingredients; if we bring new options to places that currently lack quality food; if we cook with heart; if we create an environment of warmth, generosity, and caring; and if we value the people with less money just as much as the ones with plenty, we can make a difference.

We will put our decades of cooking experience into the menu development, but we won’t be alone. We will work with our friends, like Chad Robertson from Tartine, who is creating whole-grain, long-fermented buns for us. Our board of directors will be filled with great chefs who can contribute their knowledge and guidance, like Rene. We hope that loco’l, like MAD, will capture the spirit of our generation: This is a time of collaboration, cooperation, and sharing.

We hope you’ll join us.

Peace and love,

Daniel and Roy

loco’l is the whole idea of local but loco to change. Local meaning family and caring for each other and the world. Loco for not taking the shit that’s being passed down and perpetuated on us. It’s this push and pull of honesty, love, and revolt.

It’s delicious food that crosses all cultural boundaries, that represents what America is now. Tasty, healthful, made from whole foods, good ingredients, principles of sustainability.

We see it as a gathering place which everyone can use in a different way, and where everyone can feel comfortable. We can create workshops and bring in instructors to use the spaces as classrooms for yoga, meditation, art, wellness. Pay our staff good and treat them well. Create a culture of hospitality and caring in everyone who works there. Work with young artists to create kids toys but also to spread culture through their art. Really good lighting. Great music.

We will open in upscale malls and next to highways, in downtowns and trendy neighborhoods. But what will change everything is that we will also open in the inner city areas where there are only big corporate chains, places where you will never see real food or high quality operators. 

Delicious food for everyone. That’s the revolution.

Two weeks after our annual symposium, we’ll be hosting a discussion at the Food Festival in Århus, Denmark. The topic: “Originality and Idea Theft in the Kitchen.”

Entry is free, as long as you have a ticket to the festival, but you must register on our site, madfeed.co, on this coming Monday 18 August at noon CEST to secure a place. To buy a ticket to the Food Festival, please visit the official site. Three-day passes are 150 DKK, while single day entry is 75 DKK.

Below you’ll find a description of the topic, as well as information on the panelists.

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We continue to look forward to MAD4 by looking back at notable speeches from years past. Time for a classic: Ben Shewry’s “Cycle of Love.”

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"I’ve never been good at anything so, naturally, I ended up being good at advertising," said the author and ad exec Knud Romer at the beginning of his speech at last year’s MAD. The relentlessly self-deprecating Romer, who insists he knows nothing about food and most recently moderated a MAD Monday on the future of food criticism, presented a largely autobiographical talk at MAD3 about the guts it takes to be honest.

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In the weeks leading up to MAD4, we’ll be sharing videos from the last three symposiums to refresh people’s memory and get them in the mood for what’s to come in August. Today, we unearth three very different presentations from MAD3: the talks of author Jon Reiner, glaciologist Jason Box, and Aboriginal forager Josh Whiteland.

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Today chef Margot Henderson runs one of the most pleasant and delicious places in London, the Rochelle Canteen. You can go there from the morning until the late afternoon, eat beautifully cooked meat, nurturing braises, bright and lovely salads, and perfect puddings. It’s smart, confident food that’s everything you need when you want to feel like you’re eating in England’s capital.

Henderson actually grew up in New Zealand, where she landed in kitchens when she dropped out of college. She was trying to scrape up enough money to end up in the UK and figure out what she really wanted to do with her life.

Here’s what happened:

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The Danish thinker and writer Tor Nørretranders has played an instrumental role in MAD’s development over the past four years. Today, in the first installment of our new series From The Vault, we’d like to share his three talks from the symposium. All of the presentations explore similar themes and build on the argument that gaining knowledge and exploring the edible world will lead to a more delicious future. 

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In the latest entry in our continuing series on chefs’ first days in restaurant kitchens (see previous entries with Dominique Crenn and Michel Bras), Mario Batali remembers his unlikely beginnings.

The chef who has broken into the public consciousness perhaps more widely than any of his contemporaries — serving as the subject of an acclaimed book by Bill Buford, running successful restaurants throughout the globe, and hosting one of the most popular shows on daytime television — Batali entered the kitchen to chase girls. In the late 1970s, after enrolling at Rutgers University, he asked for a job at Stuff Yer Face, a pizzeria in town that’s still in business today. 

Here’s Mario explaining how it all happened: 

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We are thrilled to announce the MAD Grant, a new initiative that brings 10 young chefs to attend the MAD Symposium in Copenhagen. We want to gift this opportunity to 10 aspiring chefs from all over the world who show promise and would otherwise not have the means to join us for the event. 

The MAD Grant will cover travel and accommodation expenses, as well as the cost of the Symposium ticket.

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Over the past decade, smoking foods has experienced a resurgence in kitchens around the globe. At first blush, these techniques seem simple and primitive (and in many respects, they are), but a plethora of variables, details, and scientific concerns come together to make the matter of smoking foods a potentially confusing one. Learning to navigate these challenges can unlock a world of new flavors.

To introduce the uninitiated to the practices of cold and hot smoking, as well as all the ways you can enhance and preserve your food, we enlisted the help of Nordic Food Lab researcher Guillemette Barthouil — who comes from a family of French smokers — to develop a primer for cooks, chefs, and enthusiasts interested in jumping in. Here it is:

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Team MAD has traveled to Mexico City to attend chef Enrique Olvera’s Mesamérica every year since the festival’s inception in 2012. This year’s proceedings, which concluded just a few minutes ago, might be the most memorable yet.

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At the age of 25, Michel Bras assembled a dish of the best the garden in his native Aubrac had to offer. It changed gastronomy. The gargouillou was an intuitive, meticulous reflection of the landscape that evolved with nearly every passing day. The preparation has become one of the most emulated dishes in modern gastronomy and the symbol of a vegetable-based cuisine that has influenced contemporary chefs around the globe (Bras cooked a version of the gargouillou at the first MAD Symposium). In an interview with the blog Food Snob in 2009, the chef Wylie Dufresne put it succinctly: “Bras has been copied by every chef in the world. We’ve all taken a page out of his book — the smear, the spoon drag, putting food on a plate like it fell off a tree.” 

We recently asked Bras to devote some thought to how he fell under the spell of vegetables. In the following essay, the chef describes formative experiences growing up in Aubrac, where he explored the land, taught himself how to cook, developed an exhaustive knowledge of the plant kingdom, and eventually opened the restaurant we now know as Bras.

Here is his piece (the original version, in French, is included at the end): 

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Want to join our team in Copenhagen? We’re on the lookout for talented warriors, writers, and designers to work with us now, as we gear up for the symposium in August. Internships are unpaid, and their duration is flexible.

To apply, please send us a cover letter, résumé, and references to internships@madfood.co. If you are a designer, please also attach your portfolio.

The Copenhagen-born, Berlin-based artist Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967) has said that his art should allow people to see themselves sensing. By thoughtfully harnessing the natural elements, Eliasson creates works that make you take note of your place in the physical world around you. Storied projects from his career include an installation of man-made waterfalls along the New York City waterfront (one critic described them as “remnants of a primordial Eden, beautiful, uncanny signs of a natural nonurban past that the city never had”) and a takeover of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, during which he filled the room with mist and placed a massive circle of monofrequency lights on the wall to mimic the sun. The effects of his art are often visceral and sublime.

You may be wondering why Eliasson is appearing in a space dedicated to the world of chefs and cooking. It’s a fair concern for which there’s an easy explanation: Eliasson’s studio in Pfefferburg, Berlin has a very special kitchen. In it, he and his kitchen operators Asako Iwama and Lauren Maurer have not only developed a space that serves as an example of mindful and flavorful cooking — with little resemblance to your average office cafeteria, or even kitchen staff canteen — but also a space dedicated to exploring our relationship to eating and cooking.

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