A day after announcing "What Is Cooking?" as the theme of MAD4, we kick off one of the MADFeed’s first regular features, What I’m Cooking, in which chefs from around the world discuss some of their most compelling dishes, and why they make them.

Up first is Pujol’s Enrique Olvera and his “living” mole: 

A few months ago, a friend and noted chef asked me for my definition of cooking. My kneejerk response was “transforming an ingredient.” He immediately dismissed my response, asking if orange juice was cooking. He had a point. He shut me up.

After that encounter, I gave the cooking question some more thought. Here’s my new definition: a mole.

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luckypeach:

Our girlfriends over in Copenhagen have announced the theme of this summer’s Redzepifest, cohosted by celebrated Brazilian anteater Alex Atala. Follow the MAD Feed to keep your nib in the inkwell of such information and to see some of the stories from the GUTS booklet in Issue 9 in MOVING PICTURE FORMAT!

In a good kitchen, male and female really doesn’t matter anymore.

This week, the New York Times examines the promising trend toward gender equality in kitchens across the world. Drawing on interviews and available statistics, the article concludes that positions like sous chef and chef de cuisine are increasingly being filled by women, which means a “new vanguard” of culinary leaders will soon emerge. 

Several restaurant groups, like Momofuku, are facilitating the progress by becoming more corporate and providing their employees with benefits. But in what remains a strenuous, low-margin business, it’s still not the norm. Read on more for more. 

In many ways, this is an incredible time to be a cook. The public has taken an interest in our traditionally blue-collar trade, opening doors previous generations could never have imagined. 

But the more attention our industry receives from television, film, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, the less clear it becomes what it means to cook. A path to celebrity, a means of attaining fortune – the past decade has given rise to a great many things that we know cooking is not. Our goal for MAD4 is to remind ourselves what cooking is.

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Here’s David Chang during his friend David Choe’s presentation at MAD3. You can view Choe’s MAD3 talk here.

Up until last summer, MAD had been lacking thoughtful discussion on flatulent Korean grandmothers, gambling addiction, unicorns, and agoraphobia. That all changed when David Choe took to the stage in August. During his presentation, the graffiti artist spoke of these and many more things, and told his story. He explained how irritable bowel syndrome and a crippling fear of the outside world made it nearly impossible for him to follow his dreams until he was twenty-six.

What changed things? How did he end up becoming one of the most visible and “paid" graffiti artists in the world? 

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It offers proof that plants not only learn from experience, but remember what they have learned.

A recent study from a group of international scientists, including former MAD speaker Stefano Mancusoshows that plants have long-lasting memory and the ability to habituate. The scientists experimented on Mimosa pudica plants, which fold their leaves inwardly when disturbed, and found that the organisms learned to ignore stimuli that seemed threatening at first but were actually harmless. 

It is unclear how plants are capable of “remembering” in this manner, since they lack brain or neural tissue. For more information, see The Economist's report on the study, as well as Mancuso’s MAD1 talk, in which he challenges the idea that plants are “low-level” organisms.

#tbt @ridingshotgunla @pkreiner @davidchang @davidchoe (at Admiral Hotel)

In his talk at MAD3, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jonathan Gold took on the question of culinary authenticity. At a time when chefs like Andy Ricker are delving into the cuisines of countries they were not born in (see Francis Lam’s “Masters of a Cuisine by Calling, Not Roots" for a thoughtful exploration the issue), and others, like Roy Choi, are reinterpreting the cooking of their ancestors, many have begun to debate what makes a style of cooking authentic. 

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Diana Kennedy billed her MAD3 talk as a reflection on the six decades she has spent celebrating Mexico’s culture, landscape, and gastronomy. But given her brilliant, charmingly irascible ways, it was no surprise to see that she didn’t simply use her time for a nostalgic look back. Instead, she drew on her studies and experiences as a way to argue for the importance of sustainability. 

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For David Chang, the best ideas are often the ones people think you’re stupid for pursuing. To welcome the crowd at MAD3 over the summer, and introduce the symposium’s theme of guts, the chef provided an off-the-cuff reflection on what courage means to him. 

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Climate Change and the Restaurant World: an Interview with Emissions Consultant Peter Freed

Yesterday we released video of the presentation that Lucky Peach editor-in-chief Chris Ying and carbon emissions consultant Peter Freed gave at the symposium in August. In it, the duo examines the carbon footprints of Noma and Frankies 457, and makes the argument that restaurants can very easily mitigate their impact on the environment. According to Freed and Ying, it just takes curiosity and a bit of guts.

Freed got on the phone yesterday to discuss the lack of awareness on the issue in the restaurant world, and how he hopes to dispel the notion that it’s too expensive and too much of an effort to make your establishment more environmentally friendly. Here’s the interview:

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He established a massive program in Africa that is credited with averting famine for literally millions of people.

A profile on Hans Herren, who spoke at MAD1, explains how the agricultural engineer helped remove the threat of a mealybug in Africa that was attacking the main nutrition source of nearly 200 million people. Herren, an advocate of organic pest control, found the solution by introducing an insect that was a natural enemy to the mealybug into the landscape.

Herren earned the World Food Prize in 1995 for his efforts. You can view his MAD presentation on the sustainable food systems of the future here

The food industry accounts for thirty percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, yet we still don’t seem to hear enough about the ways restaurants figure into the problem. For MAD3, Lucky Peach editor-in-chief Chris Ying and carbon emissions specialist Peter Freed embarked on a project to examine the workings of two very different restaurants, on two different continents. Their goal was to explore how the restaurant world might more actively fight climate change.

Noma, in Copenhagen, and Frankies 457, in Brooklyn, New York, agreed to share with Freed every single piece of information about their operations, so that he could calculate the carbon footprint of each restaurant. Over the course of several months, the restaurateurs provided Freed with a sea of documents, including laundry receipts, exhaustive ingredient lists, descriptions of foraging trips, and even the sizes of their delivery trucks. 

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Today we release Margot Henderson’s presentation from MAD3, in which the chef discusses the importance of simple, instinctive, regional cooking and tackles the question of why there aren’t more female chefs running kitchens around the world. The speech was adapted from an essay. You can read it below, as well as in the recently published “Guts” mini-magazine that’s tucked inside the latest issue of Lucky Peach.

When I was a young chef, I liked nothing better than the creative, steamy, competitive, hard atmosphere of the kitchen. The more shifts, the better; the more there was to do, the better; and I still seemed to have so much energy that I could carry on into the night with my kitchen mates and still be fresh for the next morning’s work.

Despite my enthusiasm, for a long time I lacked confidence. I spent many years not taking bigger jobs that called for greater responsibility. Finally, one New Year’s Eve, I said, “Come on, Margot,” and I made it my resolution to push myself into the unknown, into a place I knew I could and should be. Because after all, I was ambitious, and still am. 

As soon as I made that resolution, everything fell into place. From that moment on, I have always said, “Yes, you can,” instead of “No, you can’t.” And that first year I went for it, I was given the opportunity to run a kitchen and was made head chef at a new restaurant opening in Notting Hill. 

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