Do you want to learn about eating insects? On this week’s Chefs Without Restaurants Podcast we have Joseph Yoon. He’s the executive director of Brooklyn Bugs, as well as the chef/owner of Yummy Eats and Dinner Echo. Joseph views his participation in this global food movement as an extension of his commitment to his community, and volunteers his time and resources with both Brooklyn Bugs and Yummy Eats.
Brooklyn Bugs is an advocate for edible insects, and their mission is to raise appreciation and awareness for them through delicious, educational, and creative programming. Their work has been featured on the Smithsonian Channel, New York Times, NPR, Food and Wine, and Gizmodo, as they strive to introduce edible insects as a sustainable source of protein that can be found in your pantry, eaten as a snack, and beautifully plated by chefs.
Joseph first got into edible insects as a collaboration with artist Miru Kim. She’s someone he had really wanted to work with, and she was looking to serve insects for people to eat as part of her Phobia/Phagia project.
Besides being a sustainable protein source, in the right hands, insects are also delicious. We discuss a few of the ways that Joseph likes to use them, and we talk about the parallels between eating insects and offal. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about edible insects, this is the podcast episode for you.
Lots of other links to Joseph’s work
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Welcome to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. I'm your host Chris Spear. On the show. I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry who took a different route. They're caterers, research chefs, personal chefs, cookbook authors, food truckers, farmers, cottage bakers and all sorts of culinary renegades. I myself fall into the personal chef category as I started my own personal chef business perfect little bites 10 years ago. And while I started working in kitchens in the early 90s I've literally never worked in a restaurant. On this week's show we have Joseph Yoon. He's the executive director of Brooklyn Bugs, as well as the chef owner of Yummy Eats and Dinner Echo. Joseph sees has participation in this global food movement as an extension of his commitment to his community and volunteers his time and resources with both Brooklyn bugs and yummy eats. Brooklyn bugs is an advocate for edible insects and their mission is to raise appreciation and awareness for them through delicious educational and creative programming. Their works been featured on Smithsonian channel, New York Times, NPR, food and wine and Gizmodo as they strive to introduce edible insects as a sustainable source of protein that can be found in your pantry eaten as a snack and beautifully plated by chefs. Joseph first got into edible insects as a collaboration with artists Miru Kim. She's someone he had wanted to work with for a long time, and she was looking to serve insects for people to eat as part of her phobia/phagia project. Besides being a sustainable protein source in the right hands, insects are also delicious. We discuss a few of the ways that Joseph likes to use them. And we talked about the parallels between eating insects and oval. This week, we have Earth Day coming up and we thought that this would be a great tie in as Joseph and I both really care about sustainability. And just thought that this would be a natural fit to release this episode this week. So if you've ever wanted to learn about eating insects, this is going to be the podcast episode for you. And thank you to this week's sponsor Olive in basket with more than 30 each oils and vinegars Olive and basket is my go to for specialty food items. They also have seasoning blends sauces, jams, pasta, honeys, mustards, gift baskets, and so much more. A couple of my personal favorites are the Mayra lemon oil and the Greek seasoning vinegar. But I don't think I've ever had anything I didn't like from their shop. Sharon and Cindy do a great job curating a wide selection of items that are loved by both professional chefs and home cooks. Located in Frederick, Maryland, their shop is at 5231 buches Turnpike, you can order all their products online and have them shipped directly to your house. Go to all of them. basket.com and the link is in the show notes. And now on with the show. Thanks so much for listening and have a great week. Hey, Joseph, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for coming on.Joseph Yoon:
Thank you so much for having me. Chris. I'm very excited to be here.Chris Spear:
I look forward to talking to you we've gone back and forth I guess via like Instagram over the past year or so. And now I see you in clubhouse rooms almost every day now.Joseph Yoon:
Clubhouse has been incredibly life changing and it's been really such a positive experience and I've really been enjoying connecting with you and many other people through through the vocal audio medium. I'm it's really been incredible.Chris Spear:
I guess you and I met actually one of the times I had been eating insects. We met at a star chefs event at Oxomoco in Brooklyn, which is one of my favorite places and I have to say that the beef tartare with grasshopper mayo is one of my favorite things. And I think I get it every time I'm there.Joseph Yoon:
Awesome. I can't wait to go again and be able to eat there. It's it's been, it's been a while since since I've been eating indoors. So I am looking forward to the return of that lifestyle again, me too, for sure. Well, I usually get into culinary background, but I think we should just jump right into this, you're the guy, or at least one of them who advocates for eating insects. So How and when did that start my journey to beginning my work with edible insects is quite unique. Because it didn't come from a culinary standpoint, nor from a standpoint from sustainability either, really. And it comes from art. And I'm actually really quite happy about this, because I really love supporting art. And I think culture is going to be a really big way in how we're going to get people to really start accepting edible insects. And so there's an artist that I really loved her name is mirror cam. And I was a big fan of her artwork. And I kept asking her once we became friends, I kept pitching her on ideas for us to work on together. And she kept saying no. And I was like miru, I hope you don't mind if I keep asking you and pitching you on projects. And she was like, well, as long as you don't mind me saying no, then I don't mind you asking me. And so this went on for I think a couple years. And then in 2000, at the end of 2016, beginning of 2017. She asked me whether I would participate in her art project phobia fazia, conquering her fear of insects by eating them. And she wanted a chef that would help create the food and produce an event with her around that. And when she asked me, I knew very little about edible insects. But I immediately said yes, because I really wanted to work with her. And so after saying yes, I went on to the all www, and I did a little research and almost immediately I find out that the UN endorses edible insects. The Food and Agricultural Organization wrote a report in 2013 edible insects, future prospects for food and feed security. And these things really resonated profoundly with me, the fact that edible insects are sustainable, that it addresses food security and sustainability. These are things that are really meaningful. And that had that that really led to me being tremendously inspired, and motivating me to continue working with edible insects. So what did that first project look like that you did with her, she wanted to host an event where we could serve edible insects to her guests. And upon brainstorming, we decided to turn it into a fundraiser for her to raise some money for to get some more camera equipment and stuff. And so I created a tasting menu of about 10 dishes. And we were successfully able to raise funds for her. AndUnknown:
it's just really fascinating how much an event a singular event with someone that I really respect can change my life. I mean, working with audible inside says irrevocably completely altered the course of my life. And so for that I am I will eternally be grateful to miru for giving the spark to the catalyst to get involved with insects, not having any clue or idea about how significant Li it would really impact my life. Now at that time, did you have any experience or formal training and cooking while so I started cooking, I had a long love affair with cooking. And back in the let's say back in the early 90s when I was in high school. I have pictures in my high school album of dishes that I made for my ex girlfriend and my family. So way before we had smartphones and cameras and everyone was posting pictures up, I'm proud to say I'm one of the Oji photo takers in high school. And I just found myself immediately gravitating towards kitchens. When my friends would have parties. I would love to go and help out in the kitchen. When there's a grill cooking I would offer to like hey Do you want to relax, I'm happy to cook on the grill for you. And so I just found a great love and passion for cooking. And it was never my intention to work in food and hospitality. But in 2011, after working in the music industry for about a dozen years, I was feeling a little burnt out. And I wanted to create some spark some passion, something that I loved. And I decided to host a pop up event. And this was in 2011. So this was a little before, the whole concept and idea of pop ups really took off like it is now. And I would approach some bars that I would go to that I enjoyed hanging out in. And I would ask them, I'm like, Hey, could I do a pop up? They're like, What's that mean? Joseph, what, what are you talking about? Like, well, I would bring everything that I need to set up and serve food in your bar. And hopefully, this will be a win win situation where we'll be getting more people into your bar will be serving food, they'll want to drink more, they'll drink more the want to eat more food. And so it was just a really beautiful experience, where that led to me finding a lot of champions for my work. And I was slowly able to start focusing more of my time on my culinary work, we now offer work from the music industry. And I was able to successfully transition where I won some champions that bought me some really large accounts, working for corporations. And you know, I just really put my head down and worked and try to learn as much as possible, and the art of catering, and how to successfully cater large events with small, tiny pantry spaces that they would give me and incorporate kitchens and stuff or these small rooms without any running water or a stove and how I can execute those events. And so it was a big learning curve. But I am so happy that I was able to make that transition. And, and so I would say I've been cooking, you know, working as a cook, and as a chef now since 2011. So you did this one off art event, then what? Like how did that turn into Brooklyn bugs and what you're doing today? So after the event, it was on cinco demayo 2017. With mirror Can I continue doing research on companies in North America specifically, to really try to find allies and people and companies, purveyors, who wanted to expand the idea of eating insects in America. And so I sent them pictures from my event. And I was like, Hey, guys, this is a work that I'm doing with edible insects. I would love to speak with you about working together, seeing if there's a meaningful way for us to do something together. And thankfully, all the companies I reached out to were like, we'd love to send you samples. And we'd love to see what you do with our with our insect products. And after that initial phase, which went into like June may into work for the month of May. I was like guys, there is never been a conference or a festival in New York City around edible insects. And they're like, no, there hasn't. And so I was like, What if I were to host and produce a conference around edible insects, they're like, we would be all behind it. 110% Joseph, that'll be incredible. So I was like, okay, Joseph, let's see, I know, I want an outdoor component for this for this conference. And it's June now. So we'd really have to do it really quickly, maybe Labor Day weekend. Now, to produce an event of this nature, I would, I would ordinarily plan at least one year out maybe nine months out. So this was a very assertive accelerated idea to try to host a conference in a matter of like with a three month turnaround essentially. And the sponsors were like Joseph, if you can do it, we will be there. And you know, it sounds like a really quick turnaround. I'm like I know, but let's try to get this together. And so with their support, and with the support of like a large crew of people with my team, I was able to throw Brooklyn bugs festival. I decided I want to move away from the idea of a conference of having it be all sit down and educational. I wanted elements of a party, I wanted people to be able to celebrate, and to really enjoy not just the scientific and academic intellectual aspect, but to be able to really embrace like astronomy have it be ups have a big outdoor market, where vendors can show their products where kids can learn and play, and just really create an atmosphere that's inclusive. And that can create some noise beyond an academic level. So that's why instead of calling a conference, I decided to make it more of a festival and give it like a Brooklyn vibe. Amazing things happened, Chris. As the comp as like this conference festival was happening. I was amazed because New York one came and they're the first one to come. Gotham is Time Time out. And then New York Times called NPR called Gizmodo, and just like really meaningful press, like the process, I have a tremendous amount of respect for started calling me. And that had a profound impact. I was like, wow, as a private chef, I don't care what kind of food I was making, like the New York Times. And NPR were not calling me to ask about what kind of food I'm serving for my catering clients. And so it had a really profound sort of impact on me, I was like, wow, I have found something that means a lot to me, that has great meaning to me. And I'm finding a lot of people that are very interested in the work I'm doing. And so that really helped to catapult and make decisions about the direction of my companies, between my private chef and catering company, and the direction of where we go with Brooklyn Boggs. Well, sounds like you got some great press from the start. What was the reception like from just the average attendee? I mean, we're, I'm sure there's all levels of skepticism, excitement, interest, like what was the vibe, like at this event? It was buzzing. The first Brooklyn bugs festival was just buzzing. Chris, it's really fascinating. Because one of the things that actually works really well in my favor, is that people presume that edible insects is going to taste gross, like. And as a chef, I stand behind the food that I make. And I spend a lot of time understanding the flavor profiles and functionality of the products I work with. I will try to exhaust all the possibilities of how to work with a flavor to accentuate the nuances cokes. The flavors, fine, find the right pairings. And so it really works in my favorite one, we would share our food and have these events because people would have this like lightbulb. Aha moment. And I think one of the one of the most frequently used words upon eating a bite of an Toku theme, insect food. Do you want to guess what that word is? Chris? Wow. Or delicious. People are like, actually, this tastes really good. And it really started making me realize it's like, a lot of people really don't know how to think of insect protein. And they view it in the form in the lowest common factor of like, here's a dry cricket. Let me try eating it. It's equivalent to eating a dried out boiled piece of chicken breasts, let's say for example, that's unseasoned, or maybe someone adds a little like shake seasoning on top of it or something. And what I try to do is reimagine what this food can look like. It's not just like dangling a bog or eating a bog in its entirety, but really being able to incorporate it into dishes. So I found it very important to actually integrate it into the food. Even if it's crickets or grasshoppers or black and on top of guacamole, it's still being presented as part of a dish part of food. And I found that that is really important in presenting this food, especially from the point of view as a chef, not to just go like here, try this inset because it's sustainable, but really being able to present it not just for sustainability, not just because it's nutrient dense, but also because Cause it's delicious and fun. Well, I think there's a lot of similarities between that and ofo. You know, I'm a big advocate of cooking animal organs. I mean, I feel like you're going to go to the trouble of raising an animal to kill it, just to eat the meat. Like, I think it's pretty disrespectful to like, not eat the whole thing, right. And, again, cooking with organs comes off as kind of some people think it's a joke, like I cook lambs, testicles, which are delicious. And I've done tutorials, and I have videos and how tos like this is how you actually, you know, boil them, poach them, clean them. And I'll, you know, do like a three breading procedure for I am serving with romesco sauce and micro herbs. And people try them and they say they're delicious, or, you know, doing kidneys, I and but I think it's the same thing. I think there's the people who are so far removed, like, they just go to the grocery store, and they see this package of meat, like on this little, you know, tampon type thing with plastic wrap over and they think that's where their food comes from. But if God forbid, they see a pig's head or a chicken foot, they kind of lose their mind. And I think there's probably some similarities between that and in eating insects. There's a couple parallels there that you mentioned, I'm and I'm really glad that you brought that up. And one is that people don't think about eating. When you think about eating lamb, for example, you don't think about eating an entire big, fluffy, woolly lamb. You think about eating a plated presented dish, and people are still thinking of insects as the whole insect. And because they're so small, you think about eating them just in its entirety, instead of being able to manipulate them and plate them into dishes. And to a point that I your lamb ball, sound delicious. Don't mute out the lamb, because then it'll be really weird. Okay, I'm going to trust your editing on this. But your lamb balls sound delicious. And imagine if someone didn't know how to eat lamb balls. And they're just like, Okay, let me just fry this in a pan. But they didn't know how to prepare it. And they're like, this, this doesn't taste good. This isn't for me. But then they learn the technique of how to prepare properly, right. And so I also think that a lot of times, people are essentially eating insects in America in a manner that's similar to just eating like raw lamb balls, they don't take the time to learn how to prepare how to really use gastronomical art to use culinary techniques to learn how to properly prepare insects to make them delicious. And so that's a really great point that you bring up. And, and I think that there is a great narrative shared between awful meats and with edible insects. So I want to talk to you a little bit about your programming, like what other what some of your programming in the past look like? And, you know, what are you doing more recently? Thank you for asking, Chris, we've been very fortunate to receive numerous grants with universities and museums across America, to share our share our work around edible insects. And what's really fascinating about it is that a lot of professors I spoke with, they would say, Joseph, we love your work, but we don't have any funding to get you over here. And I think they thought that that was the end of the conversation. But I said, Guys, how about if we just brainstorm a little bit, talk about what kind of programming we could present. And then you could talk to your, the head of your department or the director, chair and see what they say. And amazingly, we were able to successfully create programming, where the we got accepted. They wrote grants, the deans would say, let's give this guy money. And what I was really just so almost flabbergasted about is that we would go to some of these university programs. And so some of the programs that we did would obviously be with giving presentations. And what I really loved is that the interdisciplinary nature of the work that I'm doing, it's not just for environmentalist, it's not just for foodies, or the food and hospitality program. But we were also in anthropology, we were in so many different academic disciplines. That it would it would really be amazing. We'd be invited to the business courses. And so the presentations were one aspect of it. Then we would have the workshops, where we would actually have hands on workshops to work with the students and showing the functionality of insect protein. What can we do with it. We would also have a conference style where the students would be able to share their work and research on insect protein and I would also be able to share the work that I've been doing, we would always have, what would usually be the most exciting element is a, an event where people can actually taste the food. And at Montana State University, they just had their 33rd annual bug buffet. And it's just so amazing that Dr. Florence dunkel is a pioneer in this. And so there at the two events that I went to two previous years, we've had over 1000 people, I mean, amazing. And working with their culinary team, their hospitality team, we were able to make 12 different tasting dishes for people to come and sample. And so that is really incredible. At Purdue, we were able to have 3000 people over the course of two days, also eating a sampling of over a dozen dishes. And what's really important with this, is that it would be easy to make, like one or two dishes, right? And they're like, oh, what, what dish Do you want to make Joseph and I'm like, you know, it would behoove me not to try to make a lot of dishes to show the broad applications. And also so that no one can hide and say, Oh, I don't want to see bugs. Oh, it's okay, we have these huge errors. Cricket, who shares where you don't have to see it? Oh, I want to see the bug. Okay, well, great. We have all these applications. I only eat sweet stuff. Okay, great. We have a couple of desserts for you. I gluten free, oh, we have these what you know, I tried to exhaust all the possibilities, so that there is something for everyone. And the incredible thing about this is that most people that come to these events, they work their way up through each of the dishes. And before they realize it, even though they never ever would have thought of eating a wasp, or a scorpion, they work their way up to that dish. And they have this pride, this like sense of like, I can't believe I just ate through all of this whole tasting menu. And like being able to witness that kind of transformation, this pride and accomplishment of going back to Mary's art project like of conquering their beer to have that kind of relationship with my diner. I mean, what an incredibly rewarding experience to see that kind of change in people. And so we would have a lot of this programming at universities and at museums. And at museums, there would just be you never know who's going to love your food, right? Sometimes I would see some older people coming through and they'd be like, I've been waiting to see you, Joseph, I heard you are going to be here. And bugs are real sustainable, aren't they? And they would just start marching through the entire tasting menu. And other times like, you know, it's like you never know who this is going to resonate with. And so I've just felt very fortunate to be able to share this work with such a large audience, and just really be able to see the reaction of people firsthand. So since COVID, I've been working really hard. And on writing my first book, I've been really excited to write a lot of content and put myself through a challenge. I've been an omnivore for my entire life. And I used to love eating me. And my friends would be like Joseph, you cannot eat that much meat every day. And I'm like, Yes, I can. And as I got a little older, I was like, Okay, I do need to cut down on my meat intake. It's not the healthiest for me to be eating so much meat. But that once I started working with Berkland bogs, and I learned that the greatest impact that we can have in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is by reducing our intake of specifically red meat, but our meat intake. Wow. Mind blowing, to think that that can have the greatest reduction on our greenhouse gas emissions. So during COVID, like right around this time, one year ago, since I was in social isolation, or at this time a year ago, I was in quarantine. I was like, Okay, let me see if I can actually sustain myself on predominantly antarian diet. vegetarian diet bolstered by insect protein. And it was fraught with challenges. It's like, I used to love eating meat, how do I substitute my late night cravings or my cravings during dinner time by just eating insect protein. And so I would meticulously write and share, create recipes. And just think about how I can satiate my, my needs with this sort of diet. And so it was really fascinating to try to understand, and the changes that my body would go through the changes that I would go through mentally, and overcoming some of these ideas. And just, it was a really fascinating process to to, I didn't completely eliminate it. But I but I did largely eliminated. And there were occasions where I would get together with my family on a few occasions where where would eat meat again. But it was a really fascinating evolution for me to stop eating meat and document everything in a book that I'm continuing to write right now. I'm sure this is relatively inexpensive if you just go out in your backyard and grab some stuff and start eating it. But realistically, how expensive is this stuff right now? I mean, if you're buying farmed insects, what's the price like and and how do you procure these, like if someone hears this and wants to start, where's the best place to get this stuff? Well, I rely on a handful of vendors that have done just an incredible job of responsibly sourcing all the products for me. And so my main sponsor, Anto sands, they really do such an incredible job of sourcing all the products and handling it at an FDA approved facility. And they they they find for me all sorts of products around around the world. And when they do get products that are indigenous to other parts of the world, they make sure that they find small farmers and try to get things where they support the local economy. And while it's not necessarily the most, like I like to get by as local as possible, but because of the need to research this and really expand our understanding, I do like to work with these new products so that we have a better idea of how to utilize it. I have two primary two primarily two cricket farms that I work with. And small farms. And as far as food group, so protein, they have these incredible farms that were crickets. And so they they provide the majority of the cricket products for me. There's another company called mercy Mercado, they get their grasshoppers from from Mexico, where they have these fields where they're there, there are laws with how you can capture grasshoppers and seasons where you can do it. So I'd like to know that I'm working with companies that put a premium on not only the quality of the product, but in the responsibility of how they're getting their products. And there's another company out in Israel, that's farming, a different type of grasshopper locusts. And so I called hog all food tech. And I'm just so grateful to work with companies are extremely supportive of my mission and the programming that I do. I'm so grateful that they donate their products when I do these large scale events. And you can imagine how much I need to feed 1000s of people. And they're just incredibly supportive. So all of their products are available online. And so what I like to do on in my social media posts, I like to share the ingredients that are largely available online so that people can get them themselves and try it. And sometimes I use things that are not as readily available. But as an ambassador, as an advocate. As a chef for edible insects. I want to make things that are accessible to people where people go like, oh, wow, that back that that Cricut mac and cheese looks really good. I want to try making it. Let me actually buy the ingredients and try to make it at home for myself, instead of like, Oh, he's just using things that I can't even get. So it's just so far off future idea. I do try to make it very accessible for people. With regards to the pricing, it is still relatively expensive compared to what I think we as an industry will like to see. And it's the question of the demand that will help bring the prices down. But at the end of the day, two tablespoons of cricket powder has 13 grams of protein. So four tablespoons will give you a meals worth of protein essentially. And so when you're looking at a pound of cricket powder, you have to calculate and calibrate things differently based on the protein intake. And so you're not just looking at a pound, a pound of cricket powder that might might cost $20 and go like oh my gosh, it's so expensive, but rather, wow, I can get so many servings of protein for so many meals out of this bag of cricket powder. So you're not replacing an eight ounce strip steak with eight ounces of dried crickets on a plate then correct? Well, it depends on the cricket powder is is is denser, because it's ground up. But crickets in general, they're varying studies on this, but in general, they have anywhere from one and a half to even up to two times the protein by weight compared to chicken and pork. And with beef, they they're like, you know, one 1.25 maybe one and a half times more in protein so so you're looking at either an equivalent or greater amount of protein by weight compared to a lot of the the livestock sort of animals that were eating. So are crickets and grasshoppers the gateway into this, you think? Well, there's a movie even called the gateway bug, all about the cricket being the entry level bog. And there's so much research done on edible insects, specifically with cricket in America, both and peer reviewed science papers and journals that do studies on it with the amount of products available cricket chips, cricket energy bars. But whether is truly the will be the greatest remains to be seen because mealworms take up less space and can be grown on in your own home quite readily. And so what we'll still have to wait and see which one really comes up to to be the most effective product that will be made available. So I think the first time I had an insect was Jose Andreas is IML in DC he does a grasshopper taco and I probably had that about 12 years ago. And then you know the grasshoppers with the beef tartare at Oxbow. So those are both Mexican restaurants. Do you see certain cultures and cuisines is is Mexican cuisine more open to this or there are other countries and cuisines that maybe leaned more heavily on this? What are you seeing on that end? Well, Chris, it's really fascinating that there are over 2 billion people that eat edible insects around the world right now. And that over 80% of the world's nations already incorporate edible insects as a staple into their diet, not as a food of desperation and of great need, like, there's nothing else to eat. So we have to resort to this. Some of these countries even include them as a delicacy like, Wow, I can't wait to eat this. And so you will see examples of countries all around the world, they're eating them. And the exclusion is in North America, outside of Mexico, like USA, and a lot of the European countries. And unfortunately, because it is seen as kind of a status symbol, you think about going to like a fancy party or celebrating a big meal. A lot of times people think about eating like meat, a big dish. And so they think that eating insects is relegated to, oh, I'll eat it at the end of the world. Oh, hey, we're just going through a pandemic, maybe now's a great time to have this conversation actually. Or, oh, I'll eat it only if I'm like, broke. And you know, those are the wrong narratives. And we're trying to help people to cross that bridge. And it's really a bridge of perception of changing your perception from insects being something that carries disease, something that ruins crops, and something that's disgusting that you want to kill that's crawling around your house, to edible insects, something that sustainably farmed or harvested specifically for human consumption at an FDA approved facility that's nutrient dense, and that can also provide a great livelihood for a lot of people. And if you think about a lot of the protein that we're eating now like the the cattle and the beef that we're eating now, and you think about all the funding that they received from the USDA, to evolve it to improve upon how it's reared to improve on its flavor. We actively want to try to Find and create the policies and the legislation that will support for insect agriculture for the USDA to start funding more research into insect agriculture, which will be fundamental, I think, to really be able to grow this and create incentives for people to have insect farms.Chris Spear:
So I hope I went a little bit around of where people are eating the insects, but I do hope to one day travel to a lot of these countries and try eating them and learning from how people are doing it in a lot of indigenous areas. But a little factoid from Mexico, since you mentioned it in a walker, they eat over 600 types of edible insects, there's so you know, that they're that they have a great wealth of knowledge of, of how to eat it, and a great history of eating them there as well. what's what's interesting, I guess, maybe I was thinking in the context of like American and dining because you know, I can't say I've ever been to a Thai restaurant or a French restaurant or Ethiopian restaurant and had insects, but just knowing that I've only had them at two restaurants. And they were both Mexican, kind of that was the connection I was making. But now you're saying, you know, in formal dining, like Rene redzepi got a lot of press for serving his aunt's at Noma. And I know that that's something that other chefs are trying to bring into fine dining. But I just don't know if there's any other cuisines. Specifically here, I guess, in the US where they're kind of doing that as well.Unknown:
The challenge lies in perception again, and a lot of the shots that I speak to, they're concerned that if they start serving insights, that they might lose some of their clientele. And one of the things that I've experienced is that it's a skyrocket of interest from shots where they're like, Oh, my God, I love the idea that edible insects, it's sustainable. There are over 2000 types of edible insects, all the different flavor profiles and textures. And then once they get it and then try it, there's is waning interest that they have. And then a lot of times, I feel like it gets relegated to like, the butt end of a joke. Like you're working with insights, oh, there's Look, there's a bug on the on the ground jozo in my salad, and it's like, you know what, you're completely missing the point, guys, because we're really trying to validate this as a new form of smart protein, something that we know that we can, that we can repair and provide a sustainable form of protein, we need to address how we're going to have these at like responsible cycles in agriculture, where we're not going to deplete all our resources. And I'm not saying that edible insects is like the solution. But it is among the solutions to help us find ways to produce enough protein to meet the growing demand. And so I think that because of the idea of addable insights being so extreme, people think in extreme terms, like you want us to give us give up eating meat. I'm like, No, no, no, no, I never said that. I really just want to encourage you that even if you were to adopt and utilize insect protein in one meal once a week, even that would have an impact on our environment, similar to the whole idea and concept behind Meatless Monday, right? Even that would have an impact on our environment. So that's really what I'm trying to do. And I'm really trying to rally a bunch of chefs to work with me. And I'm getting ready to launch a new program called Portland bugs x experience with where I'm going to be sharing a package full of insects to share with chefs and influence makers, and work with them in creating some dishes that they can then share to their audience. Because we really desperately need help. This isn't going to be driven just by shops, or just by the idea of sustainability. Because if this were truly shaft driven, Rene redzepi, sets the tone of fine dining across the world. And he didn't we didn't see this domino effect where all these other shots were like, Oh, my God Rene's doing it. And Jose Andreas is doing it. Let's also you know, so it's going to really take a lot of layers. And there's that whole idea of seven points of exposure to accept something new. And so that's why we work culturally, to work with artists and musicians to introduce these ideas through their work as well. Why we work in areas of science and academia. Why we work with influence makers and foodies. It's like a very inclusive system.Chris Spear:
phase where we want everybody to get involved and and demonstrate that yes, there is room for little, literally everybody to get involved and help us to normalize insect protein in America and the world. We'd love to do whatever I can, it's it's hard, you know, it's like the whole eat local thing, eat pasture raised animals, eat less meat, eat vegetarian, I still feel like that's a challenge. And that's been going on for decades, you know, I have enough trouble getting my in laws, like they just won't eat tofu when I serve at home, what's going to happen the first time I try and put insects on a plate. But you know, I do think hopefully, we will be able to make some strides that I'm really interested in that because sustainability is, you know, something I'm passionate about. And I love what you're doing. I can't wait to see this continue to grow.Unknown:
Thank you, Chris. And you know what you are helping thank you so much for allowing me to share my work and asking the questions, giving us this space. If you're interested in participating in Brooklyn, bugs x, I would love to talk with you more further about that, and get you involved and send you a package and and I'd love to see what what you would do with edible insects as well. Well, that would be cool. I feel like I already try and push the envelope with my regular quote unquote, food. So yeah, I'm always looking to try new things. I don't want to be the guy who makes chicken parmesan and the same stuff that everyone's making anyway. And I don't know why throw chicken parm out there as a thing. But just you know, like, I feel like if you can go down the street to like a mom and pop restaurant or an olive garden, that's not what I'm interested in making. Yeah, and you know, the idea of innovation and creativity has to hit with home with so many shots. I mean, chefs are always wanting to create new dishes, and be creative with seasonal ingredients. You hear about a new vegetable or produce, you're like, wow, what can I do with this? Let me taste this. How does it react when I bake it or fry it or boil it or steam it. And so I just really want to be someone that can be a resource for shots to go like, I heard that Joseph at Brooklyn bugs is a resource. And I love to get involved and learn about how I can incorporate insect protein. And so it's going to be really fascinating. One of the great challenges that I've found when trying to switch to an Anto diet is just how do I say she ate all the cravings and the food that I'm used to eating. And it takes a little time. If you think about kids, when they're given a plate of, you know, some some chickens and peas and carrots or what have you. And they're like, Oh, I don't want to eat their veggies. But they're told, well, son, daughter, you have to eat this because it'll make you healthy. And it's good for you. And you think about the evolution where once they're kind of pallets are trained. And as they get older, a lot of them will grow to love that shovels in a relatively short period of time. But it took a bit of training their palate, and for them to be told that it's good for them. And so I think that people have to take a similar approach to insects where they might eat something that might not be the most pleasant for them. They might not even like it. But think about that time you went to a diner and ate your favorite burger. And it didn't taste good. Do you write off eating burgers for the rest of your life? Or do you go Oh, okay, that was poorly prepared. But I know that this tastes good. That's a point that I'm really trying to bring home with a lot of chefs and people, diners, is that, you know, you might have had an experience with crickets or you might not have liked it. But what if you tried it being prepared by someone who dedicates their life to cooking and making intact protein tastes good. Which leads to another thing is that the availability is that one of the biggest challenges because if we have something that tastes good, that's in a pre packaged good available at grocery stores, where they can go home and put it in their oven or on their stove or in their microwave. However, they want to heat up their food. I'm not gonna judge how people eat up their food, right? And they're able to eat something that tastes delicious. that's ready to eat. That is, I think going to be one of the true big dominoes that starts this effect where people will be like, Oh, you know what, I just had an incredible bugger. gotta hit a bugger inside Berg. Dad jokes. Yeah, you're gonna have to excuse that one. But Imagine that they have this. And, you know, I feel like a lot of the plant based burgers are doing a lot of the work for us right now in opening the narrative and the path to get people to start thinking about the food that they eat, the responsibility that they have in what they eat and where it comes from. And so I feel like once we're able to start developing this pre packaged goods, ready for sale at grocery stores, that is where we're gonna see a really big level of adoption. And that's really where I'm trying to go in finding the person. Really, the food manufacturers and companies that want to invest in this space with us. I bought some xo protein bars, and I shared them with my kids. And, you know, for me, it was really important to let them know what was in them. I hate the idea of you know, there's like the sneaky chef cookbook, and like tricking your kids into eating food. And I don't think that that helps. You know, when we go to a taqueria, and we have language tacos, I let them know up front that its tongue, you know, I don't want it to be like, it's beef. Like, I just think we do so much of a disservice. Especially if you have kids that we're always trying to, like, trick them into eating something different instead of normalizing it. And early age. I never want to kind of say, Oh, this is something else. I never did that with cooks, either. A lot of times who will say well, like, just give it to me, but don't tell me what's in it? Well, that that doesn't help bring it into the mainstream. So yeah, I would love to get some more of this stuff in front of the kids and maybe you know, do some more cooking with cricket flour and kind of see how they take it because I think their generations for sure will be very much more accepting to this. It's I think it's harder to change an older person, right? Yeah, I agree completely with what you're saying right now. And I love that you tried giving the XL bars to your kids. I love them. I think they taste delicious. They do a really wonderful, they have great shots and r&d teams there that that do a wonderful job of making them. And you know, one thing that I like to clarify is that I stopped using the term cricket flour, because it's a little bit of a misnomer. And I like to use a word powder. Because the flour is used because of the consistency that it is. But you can't really replace flour and the gluten that it has with cricket powder. And so just as like a vernacular, it's something that I like to try to try to fix, which I thought was a small mistake and calling it flour in the first place. Yeah, that seems to be the term that sticks out in my mind is everyone talks about cricket flour. Yeah, so I've been trying to change that. And a lot of companies also in sarnia, use the term cricket powder. Because people will go like, Oh, I tried using cricket flour, and it didn't work. It totally made a mess out of my cake or cupcake. It didn't rise. And so I tried to it, you know, we're all learning in this space, right? It's still relatively new. And you know, I love what you're saying about now trying to sneak things in. And for me it would I played such a paramount importance in the education in really helping people understand like, what they're eating, and the importance of what they're eating. And a lot of people are like, Oh, why don't you just hide a Joseph that those events from like, because I just goes completely against my mission of education and outreach. And so I'm glad that you also kind of share that share that viewpoint. And I think that it's also important to note that because of the allergens in the Titan, which are shared by a lot of shellfish, it's important to just make sure that people don't have shellfish allergies. And while people may be allergic to lobster and crab, that similar occurs where I know someone that's allergic to mealworms. And that's the only insight he's allergic to. And another one that's only allergic to crickets, and no other insect. So it's not always the same. But just as a with an abundance of precaution, we usually put a shellfish allergy warning on edible insects just just for those viewers that might decide to try it. That is one of the allergens we like to be cautious of. Oh, that's interesting. I didn't know anything about that. And I know you wouldn't serve anything that wasn't safe to eat. But what happens like how is it that you can eat a hornet or a scorpion or something that usually has a toxin? I'm sure there's something that happens in the processing process, but no concerns at all right? Correct. when when when it's either cooked or cured or processed. The venom is denatured. So so that that's that's not an issue. The you know, the reason why we have some estimates all the way up to like over 5 million insects in the world, and why there's only 2000 and I must say only 2000 kind of facetiously I mean it's kind of funny to think there's only 2000 but it's because we don't know we We still have to do more research. But for some of the insects that might eat a toxin, like Nightshade as a defense mechanism, that might also be harmful to us. There are insects that that could be that could cause more than an upset stomach and, and actually be very harmful for us. So, so that's why I just trust my vendors and the scholars that tell me which ones are edible. And and I work off of that list. Well, what are some of your favorite resources? Like if people wanted to continue learning? What are websites, books, TV shows, movies? What are some of your favorite things? That is a huge catapult of a question because there's really so much information out there. And I feel like when people decide to go into the wormhole, their mind is blown. There are so many cookbooks out there already, that work with edible insects. The one of the greatest resources I found is the FAO report that I referenced earlier, edible insects, future prospects for food and feed security. The night that the day that it came out, it was downloaded in 2013 over a million times. So it got a ton of traction. And since then, I think it's like up to like 7 million downloads right now. It has a really has a wealth of information in there. For those that want to a great starter book as well as eat herbal cookbook by my good friend David George Gordon, you have on eating insects, I was written by the Nordic Food Lab, Rene redzepi is sort of our re r&d department, the sister company, they wrote an incredible in depth book at the highest level for most home cooks, that's going to be more of a coffee table book and something that you look at the pictures and go wow. For those that are really interested in the coronary arts, that is a wonderful resource. There's also the insight cookbook written by Dr. Arno van house, the main author of the FAO report. There's also a ton of really incredible videos, the Smithsonian channel has a video series on cooking with edible insects, that features mean a couple of them and David, George Gordon and a couple other cooks. There's really a wealth of information. I also personally not to inject myself and plug myself into it. But I post hundreds of dishes that feature insect protein on Brooklyn bogs every year. I mean, I'm just cooking with insect protein. And every day, I feel like I'm learning more as I work with new ingredients and maybe make a new dish. It's like, Oh, I have this dish. Why don't I try incorporating intact protein into it? So yeah, I think there there's a lot more information out there than even I realize and I love one friend send me a link that that teaches an article about insect protein or something It really is. There's really a lot of information that that's out there already. Well, I know I just sent you a link. I saw the article about eating cicadas the other day. And I want to make sure you had seen that yet. Thank you I love you got some articles people sent like I get like five people sending it to me, I never get tired of that. I'm like, thank you for thinking of me and sharing this because it's it's hard to keep up sometimes. And I just spoke with Professor at the University of Maryland, because the cicada is going to be huge there. And hopefully we'll be able to meet up. I think we'll both have our COVID tests taken. I mean, our COVID vaccines done by the time that bird comes, but there's just so much out there, the world is just so full of wonder. And it's just like the only limitations I feel with edible insects is really in our own imagination. Well, I'm sure you could talk for hours. But is there anything else you want to add before we finish up today? You know, one of the last things I like to leave with your audience and your listeners is just to try to keep an open mind. Try to give it a chance. Keep researching exploring the idea of edible insects. It is so fun. And I can guarantee you that if you put a little effort into making it into your favorite dish, I'm gonna say you're going to love it. You will be shocked at just how delicious and accessible and easy it is to incorporate this sustainable, nutrient dense and delicious form of protein. It is a never ending, just something that will keep on giving. And so I'm just so grateful toChris Spear:
be here with you, Chris, thank you so much for asking me and for giving me the opportunity to speak with you. And just so thrilled to have been able to be given this opportunity. Thank you so much, Chris. My pleasure. I love talking to you. And this is something I know virtually nothing about. So I love having guests on when I can learn. And, you know, let's catch up. And I would definitely do this again. And we can do around two and talk even more. Well, I love the idea of getting you in on the Berkland bugs x variance. And hopefully, maybe after we do that and see what you cook up. Maybe we could do a little follow up. I would really love that a lot. Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. And as a reminder to all of our listeners, we recently launched a Patreon you can go to patreon.com forward slash Chefs Without Restaurants. If you enjoyed this episode and want to continue listening to the show, I'd really love your support. As always, you can find us at Chefs Without restaurants.com.org and on all social media platforms. Thanks so much for listening and have a great day. Thanks for listening to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. And if you're interested in being a guest on the show, or sponsoring the show, please let us know. We can be reached at Chefs Without email@example.com Thanks so much.
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