Reaction to FOTE2017 - And the Action I'll Take

By Jeeny Maltese posted 28-11-2017 12:44

My REACTION to Food on the Edge - And the ACTION I'll Take 

I had a strong curiosity and desire to attend Food On The Edge 2017, but a packed up calendar with work engagements had me thinking that work and responsibilities were a priority. Then, I've received the news that Chef Network will have me as their guest... plans quickly shifted and I was lucky enough that my partner in business offered to cover for me on the 2 days of the symposium. I won't deny that taken 2 days off in a very busy schedule, came with guilt and excitement at the same time. But I was open to enjoy every experience and every lesson learned at FOTE 2017.

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My very first impressions walking into the Tent of Local & The Finest of Irish Food producers, organised by La Rousse Foods, was a wonderful welcome, so exciting straight away. The atmosphere was energetic and exciting, and the decor and ambience were superb. I thought to myself that it was already so worth it to take that time off, just the thought to get to taste and know the great Irish producers on display here. It was absolutely wonderful to see familiar faces of producers I've already known from all the Food Festivals around the country. I love the wonderful people behind the artisan products and their stories - to me they are the real heroes of Irish Food Success Story. We are spoiled for choice these days with the best foods to be creative and showcase what this beautiful land has to offer, as shown via the "La Rousse Foods Artisan Producers Village" which was a huge attraction for any chef and food lover alike.

Sitting down at the symposium with an open mind and enthusiasm, I was enjoying every single story and personal journey to be shared over the two days. As a food writer, personal stories are the ones that fascinate me - what brought that person to push and make extraordinary changes in their lives to bring them to where they are now? The journey of becoming something else as a person, achieving the creation of something new and find a road that leads to passion, that road can never be taken away, at the end that is what it will remain solely. As my parents will say; "They can take away all.. except what I have danced in this life", so very true. 

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The very personal, raw and genuine stories are the ones that will stay fresh and memorable in my mind. Inspiration and respect came from the ones who were not afraid to show the human side of the industry - the mental health, emotional health and health in general, that is directly affected by abusive behaviour, bullying and appalling harassment that some staff gets away within what is supposed to be a professional environment. Not to mention the long hours of stress and pressure that comes with the industry, but I believe as all things have to evolve, a major change needs to occur, and sooner rather than later. Speak out, acknowledge it, then there is room for healing, improvement and change!

I am so glad I took those two days to be a witness at Food on The Edge 2017. The organisation of the event was spotless, the food served for the guests was lovingly delivered by great people in the industry and the academic side of the culinary world taught the guests with understanding and passion. I got to meet wonderful people from all sides of the industry, fantastic new producers I have never met before, seeing great dear friends from the hospitality sector and some of the lovely lecturers from GMIT, met wonderful new friends from around the world with plenty of interests in common, with whom I remain in contact. The La Rousse Foods Artisan Producers Village was beautifully organised, the speakers were remarkable and the fun evenings where everybody gathered to chat and share drinks for hours - all enthusiastic and delighted to be there, were magic and so important. When you work extremely hard and without many breaks, this is the place to be! Have a break from it all, meet the great people that are doing something positive for the food industry, share great laughs with people that came from all sorts of places, but who are still part of our culinary community. 

My response to Food on the Edge - my action - is to realize that I have a voice within the industry, that I have important things to be shared, that my work on the health side of the business shouldn't be a taboo, but that it is a subject terribly important to us all and that we have to be open to talking about it. Health is a huge part of what we do every day in feeding ourselves and others. It affects us all.  

Let's take positive actions for positive changes! I plan on getting more involved in the community and industry (even though I feel like an outsider most of the time) but what I have to share is far more important than my pride and ego, and setting up my very own consultancy business where I can educate and help others. A very exciting journey lies ahead and it's just begun!

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I want to thank the Chef Network, @Ruth Hegarty, Katherine Brewer for having me as a guest, I truly enjoyed my experience and I could write for hours about it. I felt extremely grateful and honoured to be there. Many thanks as well to @Jp McMahon and Drigin Gaffey for having the vision, endurance and dedication to put this symposium together with a great team, where really important conversations start and Galway & Ireland can be showcased as a delicious destination.

Chef Network would like to thank Jeeny for sharing her thoughts about Food on the Edge with us, and we hope you will, too! Join the FOTE Community to continue this important conversation. What action will you take to improve the future of food? Tell us today