UP had the opportunity to attend TEDxManhattan this past weekend, and interact with some of the most influential global thought leaders in food system sustainability. This incredible event has been engaging the question of how our world must "Change the Way We Eat," for the past three years. TEDxMan continues to bring together innovative and driven people who not only share a passion for food, but a belief that food and its origins can and should be a vehicle for social, economic, and environmental change. What was so special about TEDxMan was the scope and diverse backgrounds of all of the speakers and attendees. There were scientists, photojournalists, chefs, farmers, doctors, political activists, investors, students, restaurateurs, and musicians; all from vastly different fields, but all sharing the common thread of food. This global conversation facilitated by TEDxMan, illustrates how food permeates through all facets of society, and how we all, no matter what vocational or social distinction, must take responsibility in restoring health and sustainability.
The conference began with opening remarks from celebrity chef, and food activist, Tom Colicchio, on how food policy must be at the forefront of political action. He explained how it is his mission to have stances on food policy as major debates carrying tremendous influence on election day. Food impacts all, and it cannot be a side issue. He challenged the audience to leverage our collective voices to have an impact on Washington.
Colicchio then introduced arguably the most successful restauranteur in the U.S., Danny Meyer. Starting with one small cafe in Union Square, Danny Meyer built a global food empire including iconic brands such as Shake Shack, Gramercy Tavern, and Union Square Hospitality Group. Over the past 35 years Meyer opened dozens of successful concepts, won James Beard Awards, and published renowned books. However, with success and scale, Meyer has not compromised his mission of transforming his restaurants into extensions of the community. As a restauranteur he stressed that he has a greater responsibility than profits. Restaurants provide a sense of place making in the community.