Hey everybody,

We’d like to make a few announcements and share some updates about what we’ve got in the works for the coming year:

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And now a MAD Dispatch from Christine Muhlke, executive editor of Bon Appétit and co-author of Eric Ripert’s On the Line and David Kinch’s Manresa. In the piece, Muhlke consults the likes of Fergus Henderson, Jordi Roca, and Judith Jones to figure out how much room there is for intuition and personality in recipe writing. “How can a professional cook effectively transmit his or her knowledge to a stranger through the written word, and isn’t there room for intuition—even innovation—within the confines of steps on a page?,” she asks.

Here’s Christine:

Many of the chefs and writers at MAD either have produced a cookbook, or probably will be asked to publish one within the next five years. It’s a curious thing, this business of developing recipes to be sent out into the world for use by other cooks. Here are some thoughts about and approaches to that process which you may never have considered, as brought to you by five very different people.

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Over the past two weeks, we’ve enjoyed posting about innovative and inspiring ways that might help us change our food system: Portugal’s Isabel Soares made the case for fighting waste, while Ron Finley argued for the need to truly appreciate our soil. Today, we get a more evocative take on the subject, and its relationship to our traditions and memories, from Massimo Bottura, chef of the three-star-Michelin Osteria Francescana, in Modena. 

Here is his essay from the MAD Dispatches:

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Ron Finley grew up in the food desert of South Los Angeles. In 2010, fed up with the lack of nutritious options available to his community, he started planting vegetables on one of many neglected curbside dirt strips in the area.

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Yesterday Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser called for chefs to step out of the kitchen and get political. Today, Observer restaurant critic and acclaimed writer Jay Rayner says not so fast. He understands why chefs want to get out of the kitchen and make a difference, but argues based on recent history that the chef-advocate is perhaps an ill-advised beast. 

Here’s Jay:

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Over the past four years, many of the speakers at MAD have spoken about the ways chefs can use their skills to effect social and political change. Olivier Roellinger declared that “politicians never take enough responsibility, so it is up to us chefs”; activist Isabel Soares suggested that chefs and restaurants can play a vital role in preventing food waste across the globe; and Roy Choi implored fine dining chefs to improve the diets and lives of those in poor communities. 

We’ve asked two journalists with very different takes on the matter to write about whether chefs should step out of the kitchen. The first argument comes courtesy of Eric Schlosser, author of the books Fast Food Nation, Reefer Madness, and Command and Control, and co-producer of the films There Will Be Blood and Food Inc. This particular essay was included in the MAD Dispatches book published for the symposium (view previous entries from it here).

Here’s Schlosser:

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What is cooking? What’s coming next? Who are the people that are going to shape the future of the restaurant trade? 

We at MAD are willing to bet that the Portuguese activist Isabel Soares is one of them. In just over a year, her cooperative Fruta Feia (“Ugly Fruit”) has saved over 41 tons of food from going to waste. The basic idea: Fruta Feia takes the perfectly fine and tasty ingredients that have been rejected by distributors based on their size and appearance (according to Soares, that’s almost 40% of the produce farmers grow) and sells them to members of the cooperative.

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In the wake of Chris Cosentino’s revealing talk on the perils of food television, we’re sharing an essay from Signe Rousseau, anthropologist and author of Food Media: Celebrity Chefs and the Politics of Everyday Interference, that appeared in the MAD Dispatches book we released for the symposium (see previously published essays from it here and here). Rousseau’s piece applies the “What Is Cooking?” question to the evolution of food television over the past four decades, and explores whether it’s still the case that these programs incite viewers to action. Here’s Signe:

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There was clear frustration festering. The journalist in me should have kept pushing, but the human in me said to not scratch this scab.

In his analysis of Chris Cosentino’s MAD4 speech, the journalist Matt Rodbard describes a recent interview session during which Cosentino hinted at a lot of the issues he’d end up discussing in Copenhagen. Also check out recaps of the talk on Eater, Grub Street, and First We Feast.

And now for a MAD4 talk that will hopefully inspire debate on the state of the cooking trade: Chris Cosentino’s “Be Careful What You Wish For,” in which the California chef explores the darker side of food television. 

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On the heels of his MAD4 talk on the importance of conviviality, philosopher Julian Baggini appeared at the Avergavenny Food Festival in Wales to present a 7-minute rant on the abuse of food language. 

Baggini mostly takes issue with the buzz terms and advertising that have surrounded food distribution for decades: “farm-fresh,” “famous,” and “freshly cut” chief among them. “If something is genuinely famous, you don’t need to tell us, do you?” asks Baggini. 

Enjoy the rapid-fire attack above, and then take a look at his MAD talk.

Pierangelini is probably one of the most enigmatic, underrated and captivating chefs of our time.

Food and Wine Gazette offers a detailed recap of Fulvio Pierangelini’s MAD4 talk, and a personal account of a 2008 meal at the chef’s Gambero Rosso.

Chef Tatiana Levha trained under Pascal Barbot at l’Astrance (for whom she translated at MAD3) and Alain Passard at l’Arpège before teaming up with her sister Katia earlier this year to open Le Servan, a restaurant in Paris’ 11th Arrondissement.

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Fulvio Pierangelini is an Italian chef who began cooking professionally in 1977. In 1980, he took over the dilapidated seafood restaurant Gambero Rosso, in San Vincenzo, Tuscany, and turned it into one of the best restaurants in the country. He closed the business in 2008.

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For MAD4, we published a book of essays titled the MAD Dispatches. These fifteen texts were designed to complement the live talks of the symposium and explore the What is Cooking? theme from as many angles as possible. In the essays, you’ll find discussions concerning the past and future of cooking; how progress happens in the kitchen, and whether it ought to; the ideas and people worth carrying forward into memory; and how cooks, purveyors, and writers stand to influence how we’ll feed ourselves in the decades to come. We hope that the writings will make readers want to dig deeper into the question of why standing behind a stove, or sitting around a table with friends and family, is important to them.

Last week we published a piece from Stefano Mancuso on how cooking made us human. Today, we enter the kitchen with Wylie Dufresne and Sam Henderson:

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