Celebrity chef Meyer brings power of food to Tedx

Ahead of next week’s TedxCopenhagen, we spoke to Claus Meyer, the man behind New Nordic Cuisine

If you’re going to kill time on the internet, you could do a lot worse than watching a TED talk. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is an annual conference where some of the world’s most interesting ideas are presented by speakers in talks no longer than 18 minutes.

The best talks are placed on the TED website, where you can learn about everything from creating biofuels from algae and how to spot psychopaths to robots that fly like birds.

Official TED conferences are held annually, but smaller, independently organised TEDx conferences are held all over the world. TEDxCopenhagen is hosting its third conference on September 18, at which the theme will be ‘Movements’. The conference, which is already fully booked, will see speakers discuss everything from food wastage and ‘unschooling’, to the power of being nice and dark matter.

One of the speakers is the renowned chef and gastronomy entrepreneur Claus Meyer, who in a glittering career has helped establish the world’s best restaurant Noma, developed the New Nordic Cuisine and taught inmates how to cook for a TV show.

The Copenhagen Post caught up with him ahead of his talk to discuss the power of good food and the fight against discount culture.

What is your TED talk going to focus on?

I am sharing the main story of my life, about how Noma and the New Nordic Cuisine came about and the reasons why they were successful.

What sparked your interest in food?

As a child we ate a lot of terrible food, and we were used to our food tasting like shit. But then I visited France and noticed that food could easily be so different. It was so interesting to see the way people spoke about food and the way that producers co-operated. I associated that with love and happiness.

So food is more than nutrition to you?

The food you eat reflects your mental condition and your priorities. I also believe that there are great rewards in sharing great food and cooking great food for your loved ones and seeing their gratitude and being part of a great food system.

People don’t like a lot of what is going on [with food production] today, but they don’t know how to change it. There’s a lot of instability.

Noma and the New Nordic Cuisine can be seen as belonging to high-end culture. Is it possible to make it accessible and affordable to everyone?

In any great food culture, you can see there’s high-end dining where top chefs experiment with scientists. But in French and Spanish cuisine, this high-end cuisine is reflected in the everyday life. France may be influenced by  modernity and the Americanisation of food culture. But average households in France still understand the decency in food.

Our food culture in Denmark is young. I started out 25 years ago and launched Noma only ten years ago, so I cannot expect every single family in Denmark to be eating high-end food. Noma ended up being an end in itself, but it is also an instrument in the fight against lousy food in this country and instead producing good quality food.

The issue is complex because you only get there by starting a lot of different initiatives using lots of participants. Most Danes would love their food to be different, and it isn’t logical that in one of the richest countries in the world, we eat the cheapest food.

What is next big project?

I’m helping develop the New Nordic Diet in collaboration with nutritionists and chefs who will figure out the best way to eat both from an environmental and individual health perspective.

We are trying to find a diet that is an everyday celebration of our identity. We are fighting for this, but we are also fighting against Netto and Burger King and the discount culture. The discount culture does not care about animal welfare or organic food. All that matters is that the food is as cheap as possible. This cannot be integrated into New Nordic cuisine.

But will it be affordable?

The new Nordic Diet won’t be unfairly priced. It will be 75 percent organic, seasonal and damned healthy by decreasing meat and increasing grains and cereals. This organic, low-meat diet costs the same as normal diets now because meat is expensive. So that’s good news for families.

Factfile | TEDxCopenhagen is an independently organised TED event that will be held on September 18 at Bremen Theatre. A range of speakers will share their stories, based on the conference’s theme of ‘Movement’: from Lars AP, the man that wants people to be nicer to each other, to Troels Petersen who will explain how the Large Hadron Collider at CERN can help unlock the secrets of the universe.

Lærke Ullerup, a strategic adviser at Wemind, has helped arrange TEDxCopenhagen since the first conference in 2009. She is enthusiastic about how the conference can provide a platform for the great ideas coming out of the city.

“It’s about putting a spotlight on the heroes in your own backyard,” she said. “It’s great to be able to promote these ideas globally.”