Last week, food writer and entrepreneur Crystyl Mo gave her latest talk at the W Suzhou Hotel, organized together with the Gastronomy Club. In her recent talks, Mo has shared a progressive global perspective on how the F&B industry can lead on environmental and social issues.
At the W Suzhou, Mo, who is Partner and Strategic Advisor at social dining platform Bon App, discussed a range of topics from China’s lack of global renown in fine dining to sustainable seed science. She shared her experiences as Academy Chair for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, a role which takes her around the world to meet chefs from Lima to Moscow to Melbourne.
Gastronomy Club plans to host more such events in the future to benefit the F&B community. Gastronomy founder Yannick Lequellenec says his goal is to help “enrich the discourse on issues catering to all interests, from chefs and service staff to entrepreneurs, restaurants and hotels to suppliers and farmers.” Mo and Lequellenec are exploring a range of topics from block chain applied to food safety to gender equality in hospitality to professional training opportunities in China.
Mo’s talk gave an overview of international food trends, in particular focusing on the positive impacts fine dining can have in the world. She told the stories of top chefs leading campaigns on social and environmental issues and using their influence as an instrument to ignite positive change. Mo says she hopes her talks encourage audiences to re-think their own impact in their businesses.
“Crystyl delivered such an inspirational talk,” says Gus Arevalo, Marketing Director Eurofoods Group. “It got me thinking about food sustainability, and how our business can still be successful while having values that are aligned with the new trends and needs of the market and the community as a whole.” Mo believes F&B businesses can intentionally connect with a larger mission in which they can “do good while doing well.”
Mo’s talk also described her personal and professional journey from China correspondent at a Time Warner magazine, to writer for publications like Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure and eventually becoming one of the founding editors of Time Out Shanghai. Three years ago, when Mo left traditional media and joined Bon App, she saw it as a fundamental shift in her role, from being in a top-down, authority position to giving the “power to the people” in the democratization of media that has taken place globally over the past decade.
Mo’s ideas about adopting social media while at the same time maintaining support for traditional long-form journalism sparked the interest of Michelle Erickson, Marketing & Communications Manager of Fields, who says, “Crystyl’s comments about old media versus new media [really] struck a chord.” Erickson says she was struck by Mo’s idea that “as journalists, it’s not only our duty to preserve long-form journalism, but to also be willing to pay for it when we are reading others’ work.”
Mo says she hopes to push herself and others to reflect on our relationship to media, and how we are consumers not only of material goods but also information: we can choose to spend money and time to support serious writers and writing.
Another attendee, Wenye Li, says it was Mo’s introduction to varying forms of sustainability that inspired her most. From Dan Barber’s sustainable crops to micro-local foraging in China to Massimo Bottura’s approach to feeding the homeless with dignified, delicious meals made from waste food.
Li says the initiatives of international chefs prompted her to reflect on China’s relative lack of renowned chefs. “Many in the audience asked the same question I have had for a long time: why doesn’t China have more internationally acclaimed chefs?” Mo reflected on several causes, including the low-status of the chefs in China, and unwillingness among them to take entrepreneurial and creative risks. Reflecting on Mo’s encouragement to young chefs, Li says, she would like to push more accomplished Chinese chefs to “lean in” and step up as role models, “not for personal show but as an inspiration for young chefs.”
Kenny Tan, F&B Manager of the Crowne Plaza Suzhou, knows Suzhou’s fine dining scene well. After the talk, Tan said, “The idea of cooking for a cause or change really inspired me. You hardly learn about or feel this in a second-tier city like Suzhou, the mentality is not there yet. But with leaders like [Mo] coming more often to Suzhou, the awareness will be awakened sooner.”
Mo’s next event will be in the US, where she was invited by Chef Dan Barber, winner of this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants Chef’s Choice Award, to give a talk this August at his sustainable-focused farm restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Mo will continue to work with the Gastronomy Club on organizing events on issues relevant to the F&B community across China and the world.
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