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  • [ Music ]

  • >> When I first decided to follow my passion for food

  • and begin working for Neil Perry

  • at his flagship Rockpool restaurant,

  • I had no formal qualifications in hospitality and catering.

  • One day I asked Neil, "Do you think I should go back to school

  • to get my commercial cookery certificate."

  • He promptly replied, "Kwong, you don't need

  • to go to cooking school.

  • Just learn on the job, stick with me

  • and read all the Alice Waters books.

  • [ Audience Laughing ]

  • Well, I did as I was told.

  • And the wisdom and inspiration I found between those covers,

  • including Alice's mantra of local, naturally-grown produce,

  • community, relationship, connexion, education,

  • and respect struck a very deep chord with me.

  • Throughout my childhood,

  • my mother embodied these same values and her love of cooking

  • and gathering around the table.

  • So, Alice's words really rang true for me and they continue

  • to inform all I do as a cook and a restaurateur.

  • At her own restaurant in California, Chez Panisse,

  • Alice pioneered the farm-to-table ethos,

  • championing locally-produced food

  • and small-scale sustainable agriculture.

  • And blazing a trail that changed the way we think about food.

  • I have been fortunate enough

  • to experience Chez Panisse several times

  • and I feel a deep connexion to the place

  • and what it represents.

  • I constantly dream of my next visit.

  • Tireless in her efforts to create a sustainable

  • and celebratory food culture,

  • Alice Waters' influence has been profound and far-reaching.

  • Her Edible Schoolyards programme has reclaimed all those paved

  • parking lots and turned them back into paradises.

  • With more than 2,000 Edible Schoolyards across the states

  • and beyond, she has taken her cause to the White House

  • where she worked with Michelle Obama

  • to plant an organic vegetable garden.

  • And now it seems, Alice has the Vatican

  • and the G20 leaders in her sights.

  • [ Applause ]

  • Called "The Fountain of Inspiration" by Carlo Petrini,

  • founder of the global Slow Food movement.

  • She's on a mission to teach us how to embrace

  • and instil slow food values in a fast food culture.

  • At the heart of her message is a human desire for connexion.

  • She encourages us to be a part of an inclusive, uplifting,

  • completely delicious, and very accessible life experience.

  • And that's why I believe her message continues to grow.

  • It is rooted in reality and humanitarian values.

  • Many of the leading chefs, cooks and slow food pioneers

  • in Australia have been inspired by her campaigning and writings,

  • and our burgeoning farmers markets

  • and educational kitchen gardens have grown form seeds planted

  • by her Delicious Revolution.

  • To have the mother of this revolution here

  • with us this evening is both an honour and a pleasure.

  • Please join me in welcoming Alice Waters to the stage.

  • [ Applause ]

  • >> Thank you so much, Kylie, for that introduction,

  • even though it was a little exaggerated.

  • [laughs] Especially around the Pope.

  • [inaudible] But it's thrilling to finally be here in Australia

  • and to be speaking at this amazing Sydney Opera House.

  • I think it's one of the great buildings of the world and full

  • of hopefulness and energy of this country.

  • And I'm honoured to be the first speaker of this amazing series.

  • Even though it's not part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas

  • that I've heard so much about, I feel like I am part of that.

  • I'm going to be sharing some of my own dangerous ideas.

  • I've been invited to come to Australia

  • for probably 25 years and, for one reason or another,

  • I've never been able to find the right moment.

  • But earlier this year I realised that now was the moment.

  • For the past ten years, I've been focussed intently

  • on what is happening in the United States,

  • and to a lesser extent, what's happening in Europe.

  • However, I've come to realise

  • that we are pieces of the same puzzle.

  • An action in the United States has a reaction

  • in Brazil or in Mexico.

  • And the choices made in supermarkets

  • in London have a consequence in Kenya.

  • And decisions made in Beijing or Cabra have a global impact.

  • We're living in a truly globalised world.

  • Now, it was the French philosopher, Brillat-Savarin,

  • who said, "The fate of nations depends

  • on how they nourish themselves."

  • But if he lived at this moment,

  • I'm sure he would alter this idea to say,

  • "The fate of the planet depends on how we nourish each other."

  • When I heard that climate change was taken off the agenda

  • of the G8 in Brisbane, I must admit I was shocked.

  • Perhaps I was not paying attention.

  • I've always thought of Australia as a place

  • where the environment is so precious and the climate

  • so precarious, that you would be our natural leaders.

  • As a Californian and someone with relationships to hundreds

  • of farmers going to the worst drought imaginable,

  • I was alarmed that something so real and so urgent

  • as global warming could be put aside.

  • I know about the extraordinary ingenuity

  • of Australian permaculture.

  • I've known about it for many, many years.

  • And I figured that you might be able to help us figure out how

  • to feed ourselves in the future.

  • And it seems to me like the food industry in the United States,

  • that the mining industry here is doing the same thing.

  • They're pulling the wool over our eyes.

  • This means that Australia is playing an outside --

  • sized roll in destabilising the climate

  • and making agriculture increasingly impossible,

  • not only here, but all around the world.

  • But I know I have many kindred spirits here,

  • and I meet wonderful Australians around the world who are engaged

  • with the ideas that I hold so dear.

  • And there are people in film, like Peter Weir

  • and Warwick Thornton, and actors

  • like Cate Blanchett and Hugh Jackman.

  • And he actually -- Hugh Jackman just recently came

  • to the Edible Schoolyard in Berkley.

  • Amazing. And they're our friends, of course.

  • Like Kylie and Maggie Beer, and Skye in London, and Neil Perry.

  • And new friends like Sean Morant.

  • And, fortunately David Prior, my brilliant collaborator

  • and food writer introduced me to Stephanie Alexander.

  • And I regard her as a powerful ally in edible education

  • and whose vital work with the Kitchen Garden Foundation must

  • continue to be supported by politicians.

  • Or --

  • [ Applause ]

  • Or David said that we'll have to confiscate their copies

  • of The Cook's Companion.

  • [ Laugh ]

  • Well, what I want to talk to you tonight about is something

  • that I've been talking a lot about lately,

  • in lots of different places

  • around the country and around the world.

  • And, though it's not about food and cooking in the usual way,

  • it's really about them in a larger sense.

  • I think we can all agree that we face serious issues.

  • Obesity, diabetes, addiction, depression, pesticide use,

  • GMO foods, the economy, land use, water use,

  • fare wages for workers, violence, terrorism,

  • poverty, and childhood hunger.

  • The over-arching fear of climate change and the list goes on.

  • It's overwhelming.

  • In my opinion, all these dreadful issues we face --

  • and they are dreadful -- each and every one of them,

  • all of these issues are really outgrowths of a bigger,

  • more encompassing thing.

  • They're consequences of a much more fundamental

  • and deeply-rooted condition.

  • One that provides the soil, if you will,

  • for all the other issues to grow out of.

  • And by not addressing this deeper, larger,

  • pervasive condition -- what we're trying to do with all

  • of our well-intentioned attempts to solve the problems is merely

  • to treat the symptoms of a diseases without dealing

  • with the root causes of the disease itself.

  • And unless we deal with the deeper, more insidious,

  • systemic condition, all

  • of our other problem won't really go away.

  • They'll just come back like weeds that you pulled

  • from the garden one year and then they're there the next.

  • So, what is this deep, systemic condition?

  • The author Eric Schlosser, one of my personal heroes and one

  • of the great [inaudible] of our times, has pointed out that

  • in the United States, we live in fast food nation.

  • Fast food is, sad to say,

  • the dominant way people eat in the United States.

  • I'm sure I don't need to tell any of you this.

  • But what I'm not sure many of you realise, and it's something

  • that I've just come to recognise myself over the last decade

  • or so, is that fast food is not only about food.

  • It's bigger than that.

  • It's way bigger than that.

  • It's about culture.

  • Fast food not only affects our diets,

  • it also affects our rituals, our traditions, our behaviours.

  • Our relationships, our expressions.

  • Laws. Ways of working.

  • Systems and ways of doing things.

  • The affects of fast food doesn't just happen

  • at chain restaurants along freeways

  • or in malls, or in airports.

  • It permeates everything; from the way we look at the world

  • to how we operate in it, to how we see each other.

  • How we express ourselves.

  • To the way we do business, to our architecture,

  • to our entertainment, our journalism.

  • To how we treat each other.

  • How we interact with each other, or, in many cases these days,

  • don't interact with each other.

  • The clothes we wear.

  • And what we buy, what we sale.

  • To our parks, our schools.

  • Our politics.

  • And the list goes on.

  • Fast food culture has become the dominant culture

  • in the United States and I worry

  • that it's becoming the dominant culture of the world.

  • This is the bigger condition;

  • the soil that I feel all these other problems grow out of.

  • Fast food culture.

  • You see, like all cultures, fast food culture has its own set

  • of values, what I call "fast food values".

  • And these values saturate our ways of thinking

  • and doing things so thoroughly, in my mind,

  • I don't think we even see them anymore.

  • They're just part of our makeup, part of the landscape,

  • part of our biology at this point.

  • I fear, part of our daily lives.

  • And they completely degrade our human experience.

  • For example, a fast food value

  • of the fast food culture is uniformity;

  • the idea that you should get everything the same wherever

  • you go.

  • You know, the hamburger you get in Brisbane should be exactly

  • like the one you get in Brooklyn.

  • The t-shirt that you buy

  • in Los Angeles should match exactly the one you find

  • in Hong Kong, or there's something wrong with it.

  • We take this value for granted.

  • We actually like it a lot.

  • It thrills us.

  • It's modern.

  • It comforts us.

  • But like all fast food values,

  • uniformity masks deeper, darker issues.

  • In this case, I would say the pressure to conform,

  • the loss of individuality, or the respect for uniqueness.

  • Even prejudice and control.

  • All eggs should look the same.

  • All houses should look alike.

  • Everyone should behave in a certain way

  • or there's something wrong with them.

  • Speed. Speed.

  • That's another fast food value.

  • Things should happen really fast; the faster the better.

  • I have to confess, this is me.

  • [ Audience Laughing ]

  • You order it, you want to get it.

  • You want it, you should have it right then, no waiting.

  • The faster something's done the better.

  • When we live like this,

  • I fear that not only do our expectations become warped,

  • but we also become easily distractible.

  • We lose the sense that things take time.

  • That the best things take time.

  • Like growing food, or cooking, or learning,

  • or growing a business, or getting to know someone.