Translator: Sagi Nishri
Reviewer: Gintare Vilkelyte What’s my food been eating? Have you ever asked yourself
this question? I ask myself. But I’ll tell you why.
I will take you through a journey, starting with this question: “Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you what you are.” You’ve all heard this, right? I’m the little frog. I’m Laurent, I was born in Paris, and always passionate
about food, a “born foodie”, as they say. And to me food is this
environment of richness, of where I would go down
the street, every day to get the veggies,
or the bread. And every weekend, Saturday after class, I would be sent to my grandma and she would cook the entire weekend, preparing for her
13 brothers and sisters to come for lunch on Sunday.
It was a big gathering. And, we would go out to the market and pick a fish like this, generally this one.
That was her favorite fish. And her favorite dish
is Trout Amandine. So, this is the way you make it.
It is so simple, right? Pan roast some almonds,
you start to get the flavor and the smell of the almonds
in the room. Set them aside. Put your trout down. Pan roast it. Put the almonds back on top. Et voilà !
Bon appétit. So simple, right? I was a foodie,
and really involved with food; I started writing guides
when I was in college. Many of them.
And I did the food review. I wrote reviews on
700 restaurants of Paris. Always going twice.
Always anonymous. And then I’m going back
to this man, his name is Brillat-Savarin,
he was my mentor. Not just because he said that, but also because he wrote
“Physiologie du Goût” 200 years ago. And that’s a reference for chefs
around the world. It means “Physiology of Taste”. Gastronomical meditation, transcendental meditations, dedicated to the
“gastronome Parisien”. And what he really meant is, it’s what you put in
your stomach, of course. But also, use your six senses when you start thinking
about food. First of all, look at it. Second, take the time, and smell the food. And that starts whetting
your appetite, right? The third thing is
you are going to touch it. And that is very experiential. And now, listen.
Listen to the journey, what this food is telling you –where it’s been,
where it’s coming from. And then you can go, “Humph!” or, you can take the time. And taste it. And enjoy it. And you say,
“But, hold on– what is this ‘transcendental’ about?” Well, that’s what he means. The food has to be fun, too. I studied food, and
I studied [the] marketing of food, at a large company called Beatrice Foods
that had great, great brands. And then years later, I ran this company based in Paris. This is a company that’s
over 100 years old. It’s been creating foods with 200 chefs
when I was there. I ran it for six years. We created thousands
of different products in every category
you can think of, from “haricot verts” to “foie gras”. And then, the best part, every week we had tastings. And I would never miss them. So, the tasting goes like that, it is a blind tasting, and you try to understand really, what’s in that food,
but where it’s coming from. And when I ask the chef,
for example, we were tasting olive oil. Not dipping bread,
but just enjoying the olive oil itself, by the glass, smelling it. And they said, “You know the difference
between all these olive oils?” It’s the ‘terroir’–the soil, that’s the difference. They have the same sun.” So, I asked them, I said: “Well, tell me about the veal. Where is it [coming] from? And what has the veal been eating?” They said: “Well, the veal is
‘veau élevé sous la mère.'” That means, “under the mother”. It was raised that way, and drank the milk of its mother. And the mother ate the grass
and the flowers. It sounds pretty normal, right? But then I said: “And this particular veal
you say is the best? Where is that one?”
They said: Well, it’s about 3
hours from Paris, we can go…” I said, “I want to visit.
I want to see the place.” So we went there. It’s a slaughterhouse. And I said, “You know, it’s ok. I want to see, I want to understand
and see what’s special about the place. Now what was really special
about the place is at the end of the visit I asked the manager,
“What do you do with the carcasses and all the leftovers?” He said,
“Oh, we make fish pellets.” “Fish what?” “Fish pellets.” Have you ever heard of fish pellets? I didn’t.
I said, “Well, where are these made?” “Two miles down there’s a farm, that’s where they make
them, there’s a factory.” I said, “Fish pellets, huh? Can I go? I would like to see this place.” So we went, and it was a trout farm. A what? Yes. It was a trout farm. I was kind of shocked to see, you know, all these trouts in basins. And there were thousands of them. And guess what? That’s all they ate. The system is very simple: They have hundreds of basins, millions of trouts, and they’re fed automatically,
those fish pellets. But what really got to me, and got me really angry, is, you know, the smell of the place. It was terrible. It was not just the carcasses, it was the inside,
and everything else used to make these pellets. So, guess what? If you are what you eat, you also are what your food
has been eating, right? Think of it for a second. I mean, the result for me is, again, I was really angry, and disgusted. And the result of it is, I cannot eat trout anymore. There are several reasons why sometimes you cannot eat
something, of course. I would argue
in some ways, you’re not just what you eat, you’re
what you don’t eat. For all kinds of reasons– maybe because
you can’t afford the food, maybe you are a celiac,
you have allergies. Sometimes you would love
to get your hands on the food, but unfortunately,
you live in a food desert. And what you have to do then, is get processed food instead. So, another reason could be your religion says:
“Thou shall not eat that.” Or: “This is not food–hold on, it’s a pet.” Or, the same culture would argue
that maybe this is food, where another says,
“No, no, no, no– this is an endangered species,
it’s not food, right?” In any case, I started wondering and said: “Ok, what can I do about this? What can we do collectively
about this?” And that’s when magic happens. Three years ago, I get this phone call from an old
friend from business school, who said: “You know, we have
this new program at Harvard, five schools are getting together
and building this new facility, the Advanced Leadership,
where fellows like you can build projects, bringing in the knowledge, bringing in the technology, and all the resources
of our schools at Harvard. So I said: “I can try that, let me speak to some of the faculty.” This man changed my journey. And my life. Because what he did –this is Barry Bloom; he was the dean of the
Harvard School Of Public Health– and when I told him over lunch my story about the trout, he said: “You’re damn right,
they’re not the same, between the farmed trout
and the wild trout. Incidentally, it’s the other way.” He said: “You know,
this is the wild trout, the smaller one. The farm–they make them bigger, faster.” “But not only this,” he said, “They look the same,
but the reality is there’s more good stuff
like omega 3 in the wild, and there’s more bad stuff,
like antibiotics and toxins in the farmed one.”
And he said: “You know, think about it;
you’re going to be here for a couple of years’ study: Does obesity have anything
to do with this? Or tweaking our food like that?” So, that’s what I did, I started looking. And this is what it looked like in 1985,
per the CDC. We already had these blue dots, 10% obesity, 10% of the population. Just 5 years later, it spread out–10% across the country
going to 15%. So just ten years, right? 1995, 15% is the dark blue.
And guess what? Five years later, they had to introduce
a new color, yellow, for 20% of the population
is obese; that’s in 2000. 5 years later, introducing red. Now it’s 25% in those states, and just 5 years later again,
a new color, darker red, 30%, that’s in 2010. Wait, it’s not over. Just one year later, 35%, they had to introduce
a new color again. Guess what?
It’s black. Now, it’s pretty dramatic,
because when you look at the consequences, it’s diabetes, cardiovascular disease, many kinds of cancers, it’s everything we eat, everything we do with our food. And it goes on and on and on. And it’s not just the list
of diseases that are directly associated to what we eat, it’s also the cost: $147 billion today. So, again, what can we do about it? There is massive confusion. How would I know
when I look at a burger like this, what’s in it? Will a nutrition label tell me? I don’t know how to read these.
Do you? I don’t. Our kids don’t. So, where is the good fat
and the bad fat? Any guess? There is one good fat on this picture, it happens to be unsaturated fatty acid. But how would you know this? I wish sat. fat and trans
fat were just called ‘bad fat’. That’s what we should call them, right? So, let’s look at the burger
a little closer because I want to take you
through the journey. How would you build a burger, right?
Beef, lettuce, some onion, maybe pickles, cheese, some sauce, you put a bun on top, here’s a burger. Et voilà. Now, a little salt and pepper, right? That’s how you make it at home. I do, too. Except that processed burger, the one in the picture? Well, it looks more like this:
A sprinkle of this with high fructose syrup
on top, and a sprinkle of that,
and more sugar and more seasoning and more [preservatives]
and more coloring and more flavoring
and a sprinkle of this and this and that and this and more color. All the way down to monoglycerides. That burger, the chain burger, has 78 ingredients. I kid you not. So, what do we do about it? How do we tell our kids? How do we educate them about food? This is really hard, you know? I’ll tell you what I did
with our kids, David and William,
on this picture. As soon as they could read,
I said: “Well, now you’re big guys, you’re going to come with us
to the supermarket; you can fill the cart with any kind of food you want, with one condition: You understand what the ingredients
say on the label on the back. So, that was the cart they filled. (laughter) I know, it was easy. It was kind of cruel.
My wife said: “No, you can’t do that!” So they’d come, of course.
They’re smart enough, right? They’d come and say:
“Hey dad, what does ‘monoglyceride’ mean?” So now we know. “What is ‘xanthan gum,’ can you tell us? What is this ’emulsifier’?”
Ok, ok we’ll change the rule, hold on. New rule: If it has more than 5 ingredients, probably not worth putting
in the cart. And I introduced a new, new rule: If it says ‘modified’
on the package, ‘modified’ anything, I don’t want to hear about it. Because this is really bad stuff. Not modified food in our house, right? So that’s what we did. Now, I’m coming back to the burger. but, my original question was: What has it been eating? What’s that beef been eating? Has it been, like you would hope, the beef that you crave for, that good meat, where, it grazes on grass and flowers? Not quite, right? That’s what the beef
is eating these days. And I am not kidding, it’s eating corn because
there is no grass there. There is no way for the beef
to eat anything else but corn, or soy sometimes.
And is that normal? Well, let’s look at the bun for a second. Now, you’d think the bun
is an easy one, right? It’s bread. As a piece of bread,
we know that, 4 ingredients, that’s a winner. Ok: flour, yeast, salt and water. That’s all you need, right? Except the bun from processed food, the one you buy at the supermarket, well, that’s that kind of bun. Again, it has high fructose
corn syrup, more sugar, more glucose and fructose, and all kinds of oils and [things]
that I don’t even know. So, all the way down
to monoglycerides again, 32 ingredients typically in the bun. This is a real bun, from a chain. And again, it’s the corn. Why does it have so much sugar? What are we doing
with all this corn? I want to finish with the lettuce and take you again before
we talk about technology, about the lettuce–what has it
been eating, that lettuce? See, my kind of lettuce
–the kind I was raised with–is this one. That is Rue Mouffetard,
where I lived in Paris, and it has all kinds of lettuces, all kinds of flavors, right? And that’s what the stand looks like. They all have different names:
from arugula to Romaine or Frisée. But this lettuce? Well, first of all it’s very cold and then it’s tasteless. That’s why they call it
“Iceberg,” right? (laughter) But seriously, what has it been eating? Is my question here. The soil. You think, “My salad eats soil,” just like my olive oil. It all comes back to the soil. And that’s an easy one, right? Good soil, good water
–easy. Except–in our case, it has some of this and some of that, and a little bit of this and that. All these pollutants. So you kind of wonder again: What should we do? I went back to the 5
schools working together. I was in the program for two years.
I got 11 students from those schools around a table, and said:
“What can we do?” Imagine, if we could set a new standard for nutritional information in a place where, instead of having to read those labels, that our kids can’t
understand-but we can’t either- we would have information
that is simple about the nutrients in the box, so that we would know how much sugar, how much salt,
how much bad fat there is in that box, whatever the kind of food it is. And the same would apply
to any burger, any food, any pizza on the road,
so I know what’s in it. Again, the nutrients. Imagine if you could know
that from your TV show, or the recipe from your grandma, that apple pie, and know by entering
the ingredients of the show or the recipe; well, how much bad fat,
how much sugar is in that. “Well, we can do it,” they said,
“That’s easy. There’s an app for that, we’ll create it.”
So that’s what we did. We created an app, a new solution, a new standard to introduce nutrition in a simple way; in a way that’s voiced-powered so now you can talk to your
phone and say “chicken breast” and you can read on it, the calories, the sugar, the salt,
the bad fat in that item, in a simple language, with a simple graphic,
a little battery. It is so simple;
it’s first a very deep database, so it has every kind of
food you can think of, from any kind of chain.
We had the help of 65 students help us work
on this from all the schools in the area. And then, we created this solution that is so simple that because it’s voice-powered and fun to use, you don’t have to worry
about a Nutrition Facts label anymore. I got an email from a
young woman in Baton Rouge where I made a presentation
on this just a few days ago and she said: “You know what? My little girl–here she is–Lydia. She first got very excited
about the app because of the mike, and you could talk and get
the information, but now she’s using it seriously.
She says: ‘Mom, look! There’s so much bad fat
in your granola bar.'” (laughter) So my dream, is that we take this
to the next generation, because our kids understand this and they have the power and they know how to use the technology. We take it to the level where
we could even identify, one day, from a smelling phone that will talk to you,
what is in my trout. The peptides, the molecules. We could identify
which one is the good one, versus the bad one. What is in that trout?
What has it been eating? I want to know. So:
What’s my food been eating? Ask yourself again, and remember: We need to empower our kids to set this new standard so that we stand a chance to eradicate obesity. Together, we can do this. Thank you. (applause)