SXSW 2018: Mary’s Monday SXSW Conference sessions roundup starring London mayor Sadiq Khan and chefs José Andrés and Andrew Zimmern – 12th March 2018

By on Tuesday, 20th March 2018 at 11:00 am

Heading up to the fourth floor for sessions, I stopped in an overflow room to hear the second half of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Convergence talk. Khan’s interviewer Lydia Polgreen of The Huffington Post seemed eager to hear about his controversial stance against worldwide rideshare giant Uber. (For those wondering about the context, Austin’s politicians also outlawed ridesharing companies for a time before ultimately reversing the decision.) Khan explained his position that he was for companies like Uber as long as they abided by the rules and played fair along with the rest of the London cab ecosystem.

His comments on Uber mirrored his closing statements about Britain’s relationship with America. Likening it to a bond between best mates, he made the excellent point that the relationship between the two world powers should allow one to call out on the actions of the other. His measured way of speaking and approaching controversy is not at all surprising, given his background as a human rights solicitor prior to entering politics. But given that he is the first Muslim mayor of a major world city and is leading by example, the kind of person Khan is is all the more refreshing. Watch the entire keynote and follow-up q&a below.

It seems every year there are more and more conference sessions on the world of food. The internationality of the foods we consume and the interest generated on how foods are made, by whom, its origins and even its photogenic qualities (thanks, Instagram) have turned chefs, restauranteurs and specialty food purveyors into global stars. Chefs José Andrés and Andrew Zimmern were paired up in a session called ‘Changing the World Through Food’, moderated by former Food and Wine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin. Both Andrés and Zimmern come across on television as masters of their craft while also being affable, hilarious and down to earth individuals. Their appearance at this year’s SXSW Conference confirmed that, as they told anecdotes about their childhoods and travels.

Chefs Jose Andres and Andrew Zimmern at SXSW 2018

Andrés was viewed primarily as a local Washingtonian celebrity restauranteur until his humanitarian work feeding people in weather-ravaged Haiti and Puerto Rico raised his profile and rightly so. It’s a sad state of affairs that all the coordination of a chef and who he knows was better at feeding and helping the people in Puerto Rico who were without electricity than efforts by FEMA. Andres explained that growing up, his family didn’t have a whole lot of money or food, but he never went hungry. Both he and Zimmern agreed that the pervasiveness of childhood hunger, and within the context of food waste, is a red flag that we have failed as a first world country. While neither guest offered direct solutions to this, both contribute or are in heavily involved with anti-hunger organisations and charities. If there is one big benefit to society from the celebrity-ization of chefs, it is the chefs’ ability to raise aware the causes dear to their hearts and foodies will open their pocketbooks, just like music fans will when their favourite artists are also promoting charities.

Zimmern’s tv show Bizarre Foods has highlighted the origin and popularity of food in far-flung places, bringing the world closer in to his viewers and helping them better appreciate the diversity and the artistry in the making of food. I agree with him that making food for someone and sharing your love through the medium of food is one of the most loving connections you can share with another human being. I caught up with the Austin episode of his new Travel Channel show The Zimmern List upon my return. Filmed last summer, he chats with local musicians at Stubb’s about the similarities between food and music, in particular the associated creative freedom.

I see these parallels too: the making of an amazing dish, like writing an album, is the preparatory work before you hand your work over to a consumer. They might love or hate it. Regardless of how it’s received, you’re giving a part of yourself and that, in itself, is a loving gesture to another person. It may be hard to wrap your head around the idea that the guy who made that burrito behind the counter for you thinks what he’s just handed to you wrapped in paper is art. I get that. But if we stopped to think that the other person who has just given us something meant for it to be important, wouldn’t we put more value to it? And wouldn’t we all have more meaning to our lives? Watch the entire session with Andrés and Zimmern below.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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