#50BestTalks: Voices of Change Highlights

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(left to right): William Drew, Gaggan Anand, Dominique Crenn, Lara Gilmore, Daniela Soto-Innes, Enrique Olvera, and Virgilio Martínez. (Monica Lo)

On Wednesday, September 12, six of the world's greatest chefs descended on San Francisco with Miele and World's 50 Best Restaurants for the #50BestTalks. This special panel session is all about amplifying messages from top chefs from around the world, covering an array of topics "from biodiversity to human diversity from challenging stereotypes and preconceptions to becoming agents of social change."

According to William Drew, the 50 Best's group editor, "We see ourselves as a platform for change. Chefs and restaurateurs can create change, or inspire it, more than we can. We can amplify the message they put out because we have the luxury of having an audience that we gained through the list, but we want to be about more than that."

Here are some highlights from each chef's presentation, the Q&A panel, and conversations with a few of the chefs after #50BestTalks wrapped up:

Gaggan Anand

From his talk:
"Food is the real hero, not the chefs. We are the best orchestras. We can do whatever we want, but, in the end, if the music is not good enough, we will never have customers."

"So we have restaurants all over Asia, and there is a new movement out there, which is, yes, we are 20, 40, years late, but we are catching up fast. It is exactly like the Olympics, like music, exactly like everything else in today's world--we might have started late, but we are fast."

Lara Gilmore

Lara Gilmore from Osteria Francescana, 2018's World's Best Restaurant.
Lara Gilmore from Osteria Francescana, 2018's World's Best Restaurant. (Monica Lo)

From her talk:
"We understood that a good meal in a beautiful space and a welcoming environment can actually change a community. And what if more places like this were more accessible to more people? In April 2016, we founded Food for Soul to empower communities, to fight against food waste and end social isolation. We, all of us in hospitality, what we do matters. We cook, we welcome, we share, we restore, we care, we do. And actually, just by doing, by taking action, maybe we can make the world a little bit of a better place, or at least a more delicious one."


Expansion outside of Europe for Food for Soul?
"We are actually working on that and that's one of the reasons why I'm here in San Francisco! We do have this expansion plan to come to the United States, and right now we've been scouting different cities--one of them is San Francisco and the other is Oakland. Not only because there seems to be a lot of need, but also there seems to be a lot of interest in bringing chefs together and communities together, not only to fight food waste but also to bring dignity to the existing model of community kitchens. I visited so many yesterday and they're doing incredible work everywhere: St. Anthony's, Martins, Sister Brown, they're all doing amazing projects. We don't want to come in and take anyone's space. We're very small and very focused on doing something in particular, but we'd love to add to the dialogue and see if we can participate and share that space."

Burnout in the restaurant industry and self-care tips for people in it?
"Working on projects is kind of an antidote for burnout. When you get out of your kitchen and get out of that routine, it's a breath of fresh air and you do things differently and you engage with different people and your objectives are different and I think that's really good for chefs. It's good for chefs, good for hospitality, good for anyone who's working in the office to get engaged in another way and in a different kind of hospitality or different kind of restaurant situation or different food program. Whether it's farming or selling things in a market or working in a community kitchen or campaigning for better laws for sustainable fishing or whatever it is. We need to change our routines or burnout can happen really quickly. When you just start to focus on one thing, it can get dangerous."

Virgilio Martínez

From his talk:
"There is a megadiversity out there we know nothing about and which we are losing every day. There is no time to waste. We should at this point not miss one detail. I must insist, just surrender to the possibility of not knowing for it to be an experience of exploration that never ends."

Daniela Soto-Innes and Enrique Olvera

From their talk:
"Food migrates easily and I think it's an easy and simple way of having that conversation about how migration is good not only for people but for food."

From the Q&A:
"Travel teaches you that you don't know absolutely anything. When we moved to New York we tried to use the same ingredients that we used in Mexico, and we were not happy. Just learning about what you have around you is the best."

Dominique Crenn

William Drew and Dominique Crenn at #50BestTalks.
William Drew and Dominique Crenn at #50BestTalks. (Monica Lo)

From her talk:
"Humanity is the ultimate community. And it encompasses the entire globe and stretches beyond Europe, Asia and North America. A restaurant no longer needs to be in a major city to make an impact globally."

"We must encourage everyone to be their own voice, free of any influence. Don't apologize for your thoughts out of fear or hesitate to speak because you might be judged."

Updates on the upcoming Boutique Crenn?
"Next year! We finished the design and are going to break ground in the next few weeks, next month, maybe. I'm very excited about it because I think it's going to bring the community together. It's going to be a patisserie, boulangerie, a coffee bar, and we're going to bring art and fashion together. We want everyone to come! I think it's a very exciting project, and we want to help teach people how to not waste things. At the coffee bar, we want everyone to bring their own cup. At the food area, we want people to bring their own container, or we're going to sell things in glass or where they can serve their food. It's tricky because we want to open something that is convenient but we also have to educate the population on how to do things properly, no straw, no plastic, no BS."

Small Bites at Angler, the New Kid in Town

After these six chefs spoke and answered some questions from the panel host and audience, a bus took attendees to Angler for a preview with small bites. Angler, a new restaurant opening in San Francisco later this month, served up a sea-life focused menu of delicious items.

Angler's caviar roll.
Angler's caviar roll. (Monica Lo)

Amongst the treats coming out were salty caviar pearls on top of a fluffy Parker roll, fresh sea urchin served in the half shell, antelope tartare, and more. Mark your calendars; they are accepting reservations starting September 25th!

A chef at Angler plating a sumptuous appetizer.
A chef at Angler plating a sumptuous appetizer. (Monica Lo)


And thank you to Relevance International for extending the invite to KQED Food for the #50BestTalks.