Parabere 2019

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Last weekend, I travelled to Oslo (the beautiful capital city of Norway) to attend and present at the annual Parabere Forum. Held in a different city each March, Parabere aims to improve gastronomy through women’s vision – in other words, it is a platform for the world’s leading female culinary minds to gather, present, discuss and network.

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Discuss what, exactly? Well, this year the theme was “Changing the Game”. Many culinary and service & hospitality leaders presented on how they do things differently in their business – whether from a social, environmental or financial standpoint (though it was generally a combination of those three things).

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Colin Harmon from 3FE Coffee in Dublin presented on the topic of toxic masculinity in the hospitality sector and how it holds businesses back from realizing their true potential. He spoke about how, even though he may not practise any aspects of toxic masculinity within his business, he still benefits from it. Many of those who grow the coffee beans he roasts are Ethiopian women, for example – they work incredibly difficult jobs so that he has he best quality coffee beans to roast here in Ireland. In many ways, man or woman in the industry, we all benefit from toxic masculinity.

Kylie Kwong, celebrity chef and restauranteur from Sydney, Australia, spoke of her life – growing up as Chinese Australian and gay, and how that shaped her career. She spoke of love and loss and how, at this stage of her life, she wants to change how her restaurants are run to reflect a better work-life balance and environmental sustainability.

Ellen-Sara Sparrok was one of my favourite presenters. She is a 21-year-old Sami reindeer herder. The Sami people live in the northern tips of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Western Russia. A nomadic people, they don’t recognize political borders and herd their animals across all of these countries as necessary. Though they now use snowmobiles, helicopters and modern technology to help with their work, they sustain a largely traditional way of life that has been passed down through a rich oral history.

Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, was also in attendance. She received the Parabere Care Award for her tireless work in juvenile food education throughout her native America. In addition, there were workshops to learn about Norwegian food and culture (I loved my workshop, which took place at children’s cookery school Geitmyra) and lots of local delicacies to eat. The forum ended with a reception at the Oslo City Hall, a night-cruise around the fjord and an all-you-can-eat/drink seafood dinner at Vippa – a food hall where many new immigrants start food businesses.

I spoke briefly about the School of Food – who we are and our mission statement – as well as our flagship course Modern Skills for Modern Chefs. I spoke about how we are – slowly, slowly – changing the game in Irish food education with our holistic/realistic industry-based approach. Teaching students the realities of the industry but also about what needs to change for our industry to move forward.

Read about this year’s Parabere Forum from the perspective of Kai Chef Jess Murphy here and Chef Mary Farrell of Morton’s and Sons Ltd. here.

Next year’s forum will be held in Pollenzo, Italy. If you’re interested in attending or would like more information, check out the Parabere website.