Talking Food with TEDxSydney’s Jess Miller

TEDxSydney 2015 · 21 May 2015

The food at TEDxSydney has a global reputation – and it’s well deserved. The thought and care that goes into curating the nosh that is served throughout the day rivals that of the speakers.

One key member of the food curatorial team is the inimitable Jess Miller – foodie, visionary, dynamo. Here, we ask her about what we can expect to be chowing down on at TEDxSydney 2015. Somehow, she manages to weave Nick Cave and Jesus into the conversation.

The TEDxSydney Food program always has a few surprises. Without giving too much away, can you give us a few hints of what’s in store for 2015? 

Hmmnnnn…Well creepy crawlies certainly haven’t been ruled out. Nor have things generally considered ‘pests’. We will eat things that are (outrageously!) thrown away, overlooked and unloved. Some things might make you feel 17 (or 7).

We will be breaking all of the rules, having a lot of fun, and walking away with very full bellies.

What do you want people to take away from their ‘rebel food’ experience?

I hope the TxSers take away some courage, some good stories to tell and the confidence to break all the rules when it comes to what they decide to buy, prepare and eat. I sometimes feel like food has become very serious business, a bit obsessed with rules. Glamorous, but at times  kind of ridiculous.

So the guiding idea of ‘rebellion’ for this year’s food and beverage offering is to look to the periphery and celebrate producers, brewers, and suppliers who are really thinking creatively about food, questioning the norm, and breaking the rules.

No doubt it will get awkward at times, but what better crowd than TxSers to try something new?

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? Is there anything you ate growing up that might have been forgotten?

Not really weird, as such, but I remember the first time I ever tried licorice root [We think that qualifies as weird Ed] – as in the actual plant. It is different to the stuff you get in shops and has this incredible earthy flavour and texture that you just end up chewing all day long.

As a kid, my after-school rebel food was microwaved cheese and peanut butter sandwiches with tomato sauce all over it (heathen, I know!). You had to get the timing just right, or everything would just go crusty (in a really bad way). My mum was truly disgusted.

The first time I had breakfast in Brazil, I was pretty excited to find chocolate cake, cheese, ham, toast, pao de queijo and all of the best things ever on offer, all at once.

The food served at David Walsh’s [MONA] 50th would destroy everyone’s spam filters (but ask me about it on the day ;).

I’m actually a bit cowardly when it comes to eating unusual parts of animals, so at TEDxSydney I’m definitely going to be focusing my rebellion against chicken thighs, lamb chops and mince.

You have been involved with TEDxSydney for four years. What has been your proudest achievement during this time? 

The Crowd Farming in 2013 was pretty incredible, not least because people who grow are the best, and it was pretty special having them get the recognition that they deserved.

On a personal level, I was really proud to publicly acknowledge the influence my Dad has had on me. He’s a really funny guy. He and Mum still don’t believe I talked about manky knitted jumpers and bleated on stage at the Opera House.

If you could have one speaker or performer, dead or alive, on the TEDxSydney stage, who would it be and why?

Nick Cave reciting poetry.

Warren Ellis performing.

I’m just a massive fan, really and probably wouldn’t be able to speak.

Actually, you know what, a double act with Jesus and Mohammed would be quite useful right now. A very tightly-scripted piece to just clarify a few things, in full glare of all of the cameras, then published on the Internet. I think I’m safe in assuming they’d be pretty good performers, and would have some very clever input into the food.

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