In June of 2016, Yale will pilot a leadership program for students and faculty interested in contemporary issues surrounding the food industry.
The program, named MAD at Yale, will be a collaboration between the University and MAD, a Danish nonprofit organization founded by world-renowned chef Rene Redzepi. The initiative will bring together chefs, students, environmental experts and Yale faculty members to address a range of political and environmental complications associated with the food industry. In addition to hosting seminars, lectures and workshops, the program will also draw upon campus resources like the Yale Sustainable Food Program and West Campus Urban Farm. Paul Freedman, Yale history professor and academic lead for the program, said students will be matched with and serve as guides for visiting professionals in order to build relationships lasting beyond the duration of the program.
“MAD at Yale is a partnership between a leading academic institution and a restaurant repeatedly acclaimed as the very best in the world,” Director of YSFP Mark Bomford wrote in an email to the News, referring to Redzepi’s Michelin Star-rated restaurant, noma. “The YSFP sees huge and unrelenting demand from students for academic opportunities to address the complicated issues that define our food systems, and this program epitomizes a multidisciplinary and critical approach to problem-solving, from climate change, soil science and the intersection of politics and markets, to kitchen culture, supply chains and food labor.”
For the pilot program this coming summer, six to eight chefs and culinary experts will be selected to participate in a week-long summit, during which they will decide which subjects to discuss in depth during their time at Yale. Freedman said students interested in applying to MAD at Yale will not be required to have a culinary background. In 2017, the program will be expanded to two weeks and will involve 15 to 18 participants. The event will mirror MAD’s annual conference in Copenhagen, which convenes food experts to discuss improvements in their field.
Though the program is still seven months away, planning has been in the works for almost a year. Freedman said the idea was suggested by Redzepi in November 2014, four years after his initial visit to Yale. Freedman noted that since 2010, a number of students have gone on to work under Redzepi, including Josh Evans ’12, project manager of the Nordic Food Lab, which Redzepi founded.
“Part of the expectations set for chefs involved in the summer program include long-term projects that are to be researched and executed in pairs or groups with students who are academically approaching similar issues,” Jacqueline Munno, programs manager for professional experience at YSFP, said.
Bella Napier ’14, Lazarus Fellow in food and agriculture for YSFP, said YSFP will help plan on-campus programming for MAD at Yale. This will involve sessions at YSFP’s two farms and local restaurants.
The West Campus Urban Farm offers a wide range of resources available for food studies, said West Campus Urban Farm and Sustainability Manager Justin Freiberg FES ’10. Freiberg also highlighted the center’s beehives, medicinal herb collections and sugar maple groves. Freiberg said program participants could also take advantage of resources available through the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and the Center for Molecular Discovery at Yale, as well the Yale Farm.
“The Yale Farm offers a gathering place for many Yale College students with proximity and connections to the CitySeed Farmers’ Market, the Center for Emotional Intelligence, the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, the graduate and professional schools and Yale’s wealth of resources and libraries,” said Jeremy Oldfield, manager of field academics for YSFP. “Both on West Campus and main campus, there is untold expertise that could be applied to the systemic issues in food systems that chefs encounter inside and outside of the kitchen.”
Redzepi will open noma in Sydney, Australia from January to May 2016.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Josh Evans ’12 worked at Nordic Food Lab under Rene Redzepi. In fact, Evans worked in collaboration with Redzepi, who is a co-founder of Nordic Food Lab but has no legal ownership of the organization.