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. 

For Gold, the authenticity question does and doesn’t matter. On the one hand, he says it doesn’t get any better than seeing a “cuisine coming alive in its birthplace in a way it could nowhere else on earth.” He explains that the best traditional dishes usually come from the places from which they originated, and that the second best tend to be prepared by expats outside of their native country “cultivating a sense of home.” 

But the very opposite, according to Gold, can be a beautiful thing: “The chef’s drive to take the flavors, techniques, and soul of traditional cooking, and make them completely and unequivocally his or her own” has given us Choi’s Kogi tacos, David Chang’s bo ssâm, and Danny Bowien’s kung pao pastrami, to name just a few modern culinary revelations.

Watch above to see how a layover in the transit zone of Moscow’s airport, where Edward Snowden was stuck for weeks, got Gold thinking about the topic.