In the midst of the global pandemic shut down, Maud de Rohan Willner, founder of Salty Studio UK, decided to initiate an online webinar platform about food, design and more, called "Edible Words", in order to "host online discussions that are accessible to the whole world". With a wide range of exciting panelists from around the world, Maud has created a regular online meeting place for food engaged creatives. With multiple events a week, she is giving a routine and creating a space for new inputs that do not focus on current events but rather help remind of a certain normality and exchange.
June 2020 – UK / France
How did the project Edible Words start? Was it something you had be practicing before the lock down or did it emerge from the situation?
Before all this, and what inspired me to start these conversations, were my Table Talks interviews and Table Talks supperclubs. The interviews on Crème zine were simple a few questions to some people I found really interesting around the world. I then started the supperclub series in London, where I would pick a theme – which would range around sustainability, wellbeing, small businesses etc, and I would then invite 4 speakers to talk alongside 4 dishes I created inspired by them and the topics.
Edible Words was inspired by this. It felt like suddenly we were all in the same situation around the world, and we all had time to talk and discuss. It also meant I could easily reach out to people and ask them to join the talks as speakers. I’m quite proud of how far I’ve come, I’ve built up confidence to ask people halfway across the world to join my talks (not easy I can tell you!).
How does it work and how can people join? Perhaps also – how are you trying to make this financially viable?
It’s very simple, there is a page on my website with all the updates on the upcoming talks, as well as past talks. There is then an Eventbrite link (the easiest platform I found that worked for this) for each talk to sign up. When I first started, I decided to do the talks donation-based: people would give however much they wanted, which would support my little business. As the talks went on, I decided as this was one of my main business activities, to create a “Standard ticket” (with the average of what people were donating), as well as a “Donation ticket” for those who can’t afford the other ticket, so everyone is able to access these talks. It’s been a little difficult to figure this out, because lots of other businesses are doing free talks at the moment too.
"It was great to finally connect with people from the food design community around the world."
What were your two most inspiring Edible Words talk or moment so far and why?
I feel like all the talks have been amazing so far! Every time after each talk, I feel like it was so interesting, even when there is a small audience as well. But the first talk was particularly amazing, it was simply on food design and I didn’t know where this would take me. I had invited 4 food designers from around the world, and so many people signed up! It was great to finally connect with people from the food design community around the world who had been following Salty Studio for a little while already..! Another talk I thought was really inspiring was about discussing the possibility of a zero-waste society with Adrienne from Ecuador and Tracy Sutton from the UK who hosted a workshop for us back when I was at university studying sustainable product design! It has also been really cool to have had some people I’ve worked with around the world, like Stefano from Tour de Fork in Milan where I did a short internship a few years ago, as well as Augusta & Tine who I worked with in Denmark too. I felt pretty proud of what I had created and I think they enjoyed it!
How do you choose the themes for the talks and how do they relate to your practice or are they separate?
For these talks, the topics have evolved too: in London for the physical supperclubs & talks, food design and other similar topics weren’t really something I thought the general public would be interested in. But online and on social media, I do have this kind of following, so when I started doing talks on food design, lots of people around the world were very interested! Which is why we’ve now done talks on: why we need food designers, storytelling, sensory memory, food eating spaces, designing food menus, food culture, food books, rituals & traditions in food, zero waste societies, food science and much more…
I feel that within food there is so much to talk about: wellbeing, sustainability, culture etc, they are all in some way related to food. I think that’s what I find so fun, to always find a topic and find the ways it relates to food! And food brings people together too.
Do you see this format as being a short term solution to the global situation or a longterm option and why?
I’m not sure yet, these past few months have been quite tricky, I’ve found it hard to plan ahead too much! Everything changes so fast. I definitely want to continue these talks as much as I can, maybe once a week or every two weeks… We’ll see! It’s not really a way for me earn money like I said before, it’s more about sharing knowledge and connecting people, creating a community around the world and within food design. So I think it’s super important to keep things like these going, and make them accessible to people around the world!
What do you feel is gained and what lost in a digital format?
It’s been quite interesting to have to switch to a digital format these past few months. One thing I remember finding difficult is not being able to look at people during a Zoom call, I mean addressing someone in particular, I’ve had to mention the name of the person I want to talk to, if not no one knows who you are speaking to, which makes it a little strange..! We are so lucky to have access to this digital world, I think things would’ve been very different if we didn’t during this particular time. It’s made us able to connect with people across the planet, in different time zones, and I think that’s been something amazing that I can take from this situation. But it’s also been difficult, we already spend so much time in front of our screens daily, and now any sort of activity outside of work also happens online (if you want to watch an opera, or ballet, or movie, or do an online workshop or pub quiz…). I think we need real experiences again, to feel things physically, meet people physically, interact with each other on a closer level. I hope we keep this sense of connection online but I hope we will also be able to connect in real life soon too.
What’s the future of food and design for you today?
That’s always a very fun but also an intriguing topic that I like to bring up. I think things are constantly evolving, with social media and the press we are talking about various issues a lot more, including sustainability, ethical food production, where our food comes from etc. It can be difficult to find the right information too and this can be a little overwhelming. But I think we’re going on the right path, brands and big businesses are slowly adapting their values to what we really need, for us and for the planet. There is still a long way to go for a more sustainable lifestyle, but there are so many innovations happening around the world. The realm of food design is also evolving, more courses are made available, more people are getting into this particular industry and we are realising that what we do is important and can help change things. It’s up to us to use our skills to create these changes and share our knowledge!
An interview with Maud de Rohan Willner of Salty Studio UK