26 February 2022

Cultures in Conversation

Key Ingredients: The Future of Food


Starts 5:30 pm

Ends 8:00 pm

Venue Off-Site


Request your seat here

As a deeply symbolic cultural artifact, food informs notions of heritage, place, and identity in multifaceted ways. From informing cultural identities and nationhood to being the basis of personal family histories, meals and the ingredients that build them go beyond biological imperatives. Building on the three pillars of innovation, responsibility and identity, this event unites local, regional, and international artists, restaurateurs, researchers, scientists, and curators to share their stories.

Co-curated with Peru and associated with FWSO.

Location : Australian Pavilion, Mobility District, Expo 2020


- Opening Remarks and Introduction by Fiza Akram
- Presentations by speakers in PechaKucha format
- Introduction by Justin McGowan
- Food Walk around Expo 2020 | Deepak Unnikishnan


Participants : Black Almanac, Tansha Vohra, Daniel Solomon, Patrick Jarjour, Salma Serry, Selma Abualia, Mark Tester, Mario Bernardi (Farmelody)

Black almanac

In order to feed ourselves, we cook the land, the oceans, and other creatures, and the earth in turn is cooking us. In 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people on earth. In order to feed them, the global food system will need to produce 70 per cent more food than it currently does, and must do so in a way that is equitable, nutritious, ecologically sustainable and carbon negative.

Named for the tradition of farmer’s almanacs that stretches back to the dawn of agriculture, and for the vast potential of the earth’s most fertile, synthetic soil, Black Almanac is a plan for 2050 that plots 30 fundamental categories – from infrastructure to institutions, one per growing season – to construct a viable food system by the autumn of that year.

It is a guide to how we process, cook, and expand a sustainable feast at planetary scale, paying close attention to developments in the present that offer a renewed hope for the future of food.

Selma Abualia

Award-winning chef (Top Chef MENA 2012) turned Agri- tech enthusiast who is passionate about creating thoughtfully designed products and experiences. Selma leads global projects in the hospitality industry and in her free time enjoys supporting & contributing to the growth of early stage food businesses.

Her main focus with Producers Trust is a technology startup solving the problem of producers’ equity with headquarters at Hub71, in Abu Dhabi.

Salma Serry

Food researcher, writer and filmmaker.

Salma is notably known for @Sufra_Kitchen, a social media platform that re-approaches food history and culture of the region. Her research is rooted from independent work in collecting and archiving over 400 historical regional cookbooks and culinary ephemera.

Her approach centers on contextualizing and analyzing historical archives and memory into writings and films that highlight forgotten, contested, or marginalized narratives of food in class, migration, and culture as it occurs/ed in Egypt and the Arab Gulf that tend to disappear against hegemonizing national cuisines and political identities.

Tansha Vohra

Writer and researcher for the intersectionality of food, community, culture and the role they play in designing future food systems.

As a Permaculture Designer, Tansha grows food using resilient and regenerative design systems. She worked at Rosie and Peter’s Food Forest in Goa for a year where she earnt about Her most recent work, at Rosie and Peter’s Food Forest focuses on the importance of soil and the life within it, how to integrate animals into food systems and how to grow food while creating an ecosystem.

She is currently a resident at the Serendipity Art Foundation’s Food Lab, where she initiated "Boochi" which explores Entomophagy or insect eating in India.

Patrick Jarjour

Migrated with his family to Canada in 1995, Patrick Jarjour spent his university and early working years in Montreal. In 2016, he then decided to join forces with his childhood friend and now wife Kenza Jarjour to venture into opening the F&B and Events concept INKED in Alserkal Avenue in Dubai. Their mutual appreciation of meaningful and engaging experiences, as well as their genuine love of good food, storytelling, and intricacy, meant that combining their values and their vision was fated. Witnessing the dynamic culinary culture and inspired by the vast range of concepts in the city, the duo found themselves tracing the outlines of an innovative platform, a place of food-led creation and connection.

Daniel Solomon

Serial entrepreneur and a startup builder. Daniel founded EroeGo - UAE’s first Ugly food produce service - that aims to eliminate food waste by automating discount.

Previously, Daniel was the CEO and founder of EROE, a digital agency serving global brands such as PwC and Toyota. He also held positions at Publicis Sapient and has an MBA from University of Liverpool.

Mario Bernardi

Mario Bernardi is a PhD student in Nanoscience at Scuola Normale Superiore.

His work ranges from developing mathematical models oriented to biomedical applications based on atomistic simulation techniques to Award Winning Start-up AquaB, the 2020 IChemE Global Award-winner.

His experience as an biophysicist in the context of nano medicine and physics of the living cell at the laboratory of Francesco Cardarelli allowed him, together with Alessio and Jan, to launch the impact startup Farmelody. A first prize winner of the Innovation 4 Change programme created to modulate animal microbiome to achieve better livestock health while reducing GHG emissions.

Mark Tester

Professor of plant science at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Associate Director of the Center for Desert Agriculture and co-Founder and Chief Scientist of Red Sea Farms LLC. In 2019, he was Head of the Food Sector at NEOM. Prior to joining KAUST in February 2013, he was an ARC Federation Fellow and professor of plant physiology at the University of Adelaide, where he established The Plant Accelerator. Previously, he was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, where he also received his PhD in 1988. Mark is now enjoying developing saltwater-based agricultural systems, to improve sustainability of food production.

Food Walk around Expo 2020 | Deepak Unnikishnan

'This is Not a Food Tour'

Deepak Unnikrishnan is Assistant Arts Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at NYU Abu Dhabi. His course Street Food--an exploration of visibility and exclusion in urban settings through the prism of street eateries--has achieved cult status among students. His artistic intervention for Cultures in Conversation is a playful, sensorial version of the illustrious Street Food course. Glitching with signage, discreetly ‘doctoring’ menus, embedding a system of codes, signifiers and markers, Deepak traces a curated trail through Expo’s food outlets to make participants conscious of what they are consuming, and how.

Each ‘station’ on the trail contributes to a tasting menu, served to engage senses beyond taste: some meals are accompanied by texts, others by sounds, some challenge the body. This is Not a Food Tour is an intervention in the true sense of the word--a system that has been ever so slightly altered, producing new questions, frames of reference, and, hopefully, outcomes.

Deepak Unnikrishnan

Deepak Unnikrishnan is a writer, university lecturer and curator. As a writer, he experiments with literary form and focuses on issues of identity, immigration and exile. His published work includes Temporary People (Restless Books, 2017), a series of fables for Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play, The National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates, Venice Biennale (2017) and Coffee Stains in a Camel’s Teacup (Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2004). He was also editor and contributing writer for The State, Dubai (2013–2016). His work has been included in the exhibitions After Belonging: A Triennale in Residence, On Residence and the Ways We Stay in Transit, Oslo Architecture Triennale (2016) and 1497, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (2016). He also co-curated the poetry and song performance Hekayah: The Story, New York University Abu Dhabi Arts Center, Abu Dhabi (2017). His work Temporary People won The Hindu Prize, Chennai (2017) and the inaugural Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, New York (2016), and he was also the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award, Chicago (2014). His work was long listed for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, New York (2017), and he was runner-up for the DNA/Out of Print Short Story Contest, Mumbai (2014). He was also a writer in residence at Sangam House, Season 9, Bangalore (2016). He is currently a lecturer in the Writing Program at New York University Abu Dhabi and was a visiting lecturer at Campus Art Dubai 4.0 (2016). He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a Master of Arts in Corporate and Organizational Communication from Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck -Hackensack Campus, US (2003 and 2006, respectively) and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2013). Born in 1980 in Mapranam, India, he currently lives and works between Abu Dhabi, Chicago and New York.

So, what is Cultures in Conversation?

Commissioned from Alserkal by Expo2020, Cultures in Conversation consists of ten theme weeks of events and interventions that challenge the typical ‘talks’ format. Multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural, the programme unites people who are normally unlikely to even be in the same room—poets, diplomats, theorists, artists, environmental agents of change, academics. Part of Expo’s wider series entitled Programme for People and Planet (PPP),Cultures in Conversation is less about global leaders owning top-down conversation, and more an opportunity for diverse people from around the world to unite, take ownership of a programme, and re-think global issues that have become excruciatingly urgent.

You can also read the entries of our Cultures in Conversation blog here, written by Govind Dhar

Black Almanac

Selma Abualia

Salma Serry

Tansha Vohra

Patrick Jarjour

Daniel Solomon

Mario Bernardi

Mark Tester

Deepak Unnikrishnan