What a thrill it was to co-host the Future Food Salon Manhattan. Along with my co-director in the Future Food Salon Group, Dr Elke Grenzer of the Culture of Cities Centre, I was impressed with staff and the facilities of the Centre for Social Innovation's newest location in Chelsea in the historic Starrett-Lehigh building. But I think the most amazing thing about this Salon for me was the opportunity to meet and work alongside some of the Americans involved in entomophagy. I love doing business with these Americans. They seem to possess a sense of boundless success, as compared with more of a parsimonious distributive notion that we seem to foster here in Canada.
Pat Crowley of Chapul Bars in Utah, for instance, is a business man with heaps of integrity, an excellent product, and a keen business acumen. He came to the Salon and addressed the audience about his company strategy. He gets it that his customers are into sustainable agriculture, want organic ingredients that are traceable, and he is doing everything he can to deliver a nutritious, sustainably produced, high protein bar made with crickets. He launched his company on Kickstarter after he discovered that the rivers he takes people rafting on were drying up due to inordinate amounts of water being diverted for the purposes of cattle ranching. After studying water management at university, Pat investigated alternatives to beef and similar livestock and hit upon the much more sustainable cricket protein. I have a lot of respect for Pat and his products, and am starting to promote them to retailers here in Toronto. If you think you might be interested in selling them, please get in touch with me to arrange a meeting.
Dave Gracer of Small Stock Food Strategies in Rhode Island, is an entomophagy veteran. With more than twelve years' experience at the insects eating game, Dave has amassed a wealth of articles, artifacts, knowledge and contacts in the Entomophagy world. He was instrumental to the many introductions I had in the lead-up to the Salon. We are already set to work together on a number of projects, including the next salon, which is scheduled for early 2014 in Austin. To our delight, David has joined the Future Food Salon Group and is collaborating with us on a conference on entomophagy we are organizing. (Big Announcement of the details on World Food Day, Wednesday October 16). See the Media Invitation in this blog.
One of the contacts I met through David was Lou Sorkin, an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History. Lou's knowledge about insects is deep and rich, and the day after the Salon he invited Jakub Dzamba of Third Millennium Farming, the Manhattan Salon's featured speaker and cricket farming technologies inventor, Dave Gracer and myself for a behind-the-scenes tour of the entomology collection at the Museum. This was a childhood dream come true. I could not believe the vastness of the collection: row upon row upon row of drawers stacked from floor to ceiling, each containing catalogued insect corpses, some so unbelievably beautiful that it occurred to me that fashion and jewellery designers must have seen these drawers too for inspiration.
Harman Johar, owner of World Ento perhaps the only US company attempting to wholesale and retail food-grade crickets, is impressive in his ambition, starting his company in his dorm room at the University of Georgia. Johar was inspired in part by his professor, the multi-talented Dr. Marianne Shockley, who also attended the Salon. Marianne gave a paper, along with Dave Gracer and Lou Sorkin at the Translating Entomphagy Panel we opened at the Culture of Cities Scenes of Innovation conference, also held at the Centre for Social Innovation in New York. I moderated the panel. Marianne is distinguished as only one of two professors in the US who actively encourages students to study entomphagy.
Another Gracer contact was the inimitable Baron Ambrosia. He invited me, along with Pat Crowley and Harman Johar to the Explorer's Club at 70th and Madison Ave for a Friday morning coffee and tour. The club is housed in what was once the Singer family home (of Singer sewing machines), and the premises are, again, impressive. The Explorers club started life as the Polar Club, by explorers who were trekking to the poles in the late 19 century. Since then, explorers of every description, including astronauts, have been members of the club, which has, since the 1980s, accepted women as members. The Baron is a culinary adventurer, and a true original. I was honoured that he attended.
Robert Nathan Allen of Little Herds (gotta love a man with three names) came up from Austin to have a look and to bring some Texan hospitality in the form of wicked insecty chocolates, some mead from Texas Mead Works and some of the best damn cookies, insects or no (and yep, they had insects in 'em) ever. Sea salt, chocolate and crickets. Jackpot. He liked it so much, he invited us down to Austin.
The Future Food Salons get better and better with each incarnation. We are headed down to Austin, Texas on February 19, 2014, and after that, we'll be in Montreal with maybe some stops in between. In the meantime, if you're in Toronto, please join us for a Beer & Bugs Pairing at the Victory Café. The amazing Cookie Martinez will be whipping up insane cricket canapés and a Hallowe'en sweet and Canada's only certified beer Cicerone, Mirella Amato of Beerology will be pairing Cookie's creations with craft beer. Not to be missed. More information here.