This past weekend saw the first annual MAD Foodcamp staged in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. A nerdy Woodstockish foodie festival and conference that showcased some of the most in vogue gastronomy profiles in the world.
MAD Foodcamp is the brain child of René Redzepi - the Über Chef behind the famed "best restaurant in the world" Noma - in an effort to increase focus on plants, vegetables and herbs in food and cooking.
On the Refshaleøen island, a 10 minute boat ride from downtown Copenhagen, a hippie like tent city covering 50.000 sqm had been built for the occasion, creating a vibe mixing everything from medieval fairs to rock festivals and circuses.
MAD Foodcamp was divided into two main parts. First the public area, where farmers from across Denmark and southern Sweden took part in what might be best described as a huge farmer's market. Showcasing local berries, fruit, kale, apples, cheeses, beers and many other products from the region - visitors could sample and buy products they might not normally be able to find in the supermarkets. They were also able to take part in seminars, competitions and outdoor cooking sessions.
The second part of the camp was closed to the public, and only open to invited Chefs and farmers (plus the occasional freeloading food writer) from across the globe. This was the Symposium called "Planting Thoughts". In a large circus tent, and under the direction of René Redzepi himself - the two symposium days saw lectures from world class Chefs, farmers, scientists and political figures on the subject of plants, flowers, herbs and vegetables.
Among farmers and scientists, we heard an inspirational speech from Thomas Harttung of the Green Carbon Initiative about the possibility for urban farming using ancient techniques, master forager Miles Irving talked about how his interest in herbs and plants helped him create a foraging business supplying the best restaurants in Britain and neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso flipped our perception of plants upside down by showing us how they can feel, act, communicate and even move and play. As the list of inspiring speakers just went on and on, the vibe in the circus tent gradually grew from happy to rock n roll euphoric causing Jay Rayner of food-tv-show fame following the Twitter stream at #madfoodcamp to tweet "I'm sure #MADFoodCamp is a great thing, and it's probably just jealousy, but some of the tweets coming out of CPH are sounding cultist". And to an extent he was right. Several participants in the symposium told me that they had experienced more than one hallelujah moment during the weekend.
René Redzepi himself both opened and closed the symposium with a quote that tore down ecstatic cheers from the audience "-Anything is possible, and even if it isn't, we still have to try."
See the whole list of speakers here.