I have always looked to MAD and the topics it explores as a guidepost for new information and ideas that trigger illumination in my own work and it was an honor to be a part of the conversation this year. The topic I presented on is one that has always been at the forefront of our work at The Chef's Garden; the critical importance of treating the people who work on our farm with dignity and respect.
A theme MAD always focuses on is the issue of sustainability and I have always wondered why people who are invested in the health of our food system place such critical importance on how their ingredients are grown but place little value on the way that the workers who grow them are treated by the farm they're working on.
At The Chef's Garden, we have always worked in partnership with our employees to foster relationships that are mutually rewarding, beneficial and fulfilling for everyone. Many of our employees have worked with us for over two decades and I believe it's because we are committed to treating them with dignity and offering them tangible benefits such as paid vacation time, healthcare, and a safe and enriching place to live.
Many of our workers are from Mexico and they have become like family to us at the farm. Our relationships with them are not only integral to the success of our business but to the wellbeing and happiness of everyone who works at The Chef's Garden. We have enjoyed several trips to Mexico to visit the families of our employees and learn about their lives back home. We keep returning to them there and they continue to return to us each year, forming a synergy and a partnership built upon mutual respect and compassion that enriches our farm, our family, our workers, and the ingredients we grow for chefs throughout the world.
The reason I spoke about this topic at MAD is because it's a deeply personal one to me and one that I hope more chefs will consider when evaluating where to purchase their ingredients. It's up to the chef to ask the tough questions of farmers about how their workers are treated and if they do not receive a transparent answer, I truly believe that it's not a sustainable system. The welfare of farm workers is one that needs to play into every conversation a chef has with his or her farmer. It's the only way to foster change and ultimately, it's the one way a chef can say they run a sustainable restaurant.
My time at MAD was enjoyable and I was glad to see many of the presenters that we have had at our Roots conference in attendance. Our conference at The Chef's Garden is our way of contributing to the important conversations that need to happen to affect change in the food world.
It was great to see Chef Sean Sherman of The Sioux Chef at MAD. He was a personally invited guest of Rene Redzepi this year and has presented at Roots about Indigenous cuisine for the past two years. It's exciting to me to see that important messages such as Sean's are finding their way to Copenhagen and encouraging to note that topics we have focused on for years are becoming such an integral part of our global food conversation.
I also found a bit of time to explore the rest of Denmark during my visit to MAD. Before I left Copenhagen, I stopped by Amass where Chef Matt Orlando is cooking the most extraordinary food served with exemplary hospitality. I was honored to be offered a seat near the airy restaurant's open kitchen and marveled throughout the course of my meal at this chef's mastery and grace. It was an unforgettable dining experience and we are hoping to see Chef Orlando at our Roots conference in September 2017. It will be great to welcome him back to America for a few days!
One of the things I most enjoyed during my Danish road trip was my adventure to farmer Soren Wiuff, who presented at Roots during its inaugural year. Soren is famed for his asparagus and the sustainability initiatives he values resonated with me in that he too is focused on finding a place for food waste in the same way that we are at our farm. It was inspiring to journey to Soren to learn first-hand about his work after he invested time and miles to share his story with us in Ohio.
In addition, I had the opportunity to visit Claus Henriksen, another former presenter at Roots who works in partnership with Soren. Claus's restaurant Dragsholm Slot exists in an eight hundred year old castle on the ocean of Denmark. The location alone is the stuff of dreams but it's Claus's commitment to the location that surrounds him that truly inspired me. For me, he is one of the chefs in Denmark who most embodies the values set forth in the Manifesto for a New Nordic Kitchen that was hailed as a game changer in the food world over a decade ago.
Not only was I fortunate to present at MAD but was I honored as well to spend time with two of our Roots presenters who so selflessly shared their stories with us in Ohio and then invited me to learn firsthand about their important work in Denmark. Fostering relationships like these that extend well beyond the time when Roots concludes is what our conference is intended to be and I look forward to investing in the friendships I've forged with Soren and Claus, two people who embody for me what both Roots and MAD are all about.