Mark Bittman is a journalist, food writer and a prolific book author (fourteen books and counting). His best-selling How to Cook Everything is considered the definitive guide to home cooking. He is internationally known for his column “The Minimalist,” which ran for more than 13 years.

Mr. Bittman is also an opinion columnist for The New York Times. Through his writing and collaborative work with others, Mr. Bittman tackles important issues in food, sustainable agriculture, health, and the social/policy issues surrounding the food movement. He has recently called for a national food policy, in a widely read op-ed piece co-authored with Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador, and Olivier de Schutter.

This semester, Mr. Bittman is in residence at UC Berkeley as a distinguished visiting fellow at UC Berkeley’s Food Institute. He is collaborating with faculty, staff and students on a variety of projects designed to improve the food system. He’s also co-hosting the popular “Edible Education 101: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement” course, which is being live-streamed on Monday evenings through the spring. (The lectures are archived.)

We caught up with Mr. Bittman recently at the UC Berkeley Campus. On the menu? A brief but wonderful exchange.


Q: Why did you want to be a part of this?

A: The opportunity to spend some extended time in California, with Berkeley as a base, looking at food from every angle possible, is a dream come true for me. I don’t feel I have much to ‘teach,’ just a lot to learn.


Q: What is inspiring you about this experience? What are you enjoying the most?

A: It’s amazing how many people are into different angles of addressing sustainability, incredible how many young people have specialized in different areas of food systems – from public health to law to agro-ecology, how much impact that’s all having, and how much impact it will have. Nothing could be more inspiring than that.


Q: California is a state that looms large in the imagination…we often lead change.  In terms of food, what changes could we make here that might inspire global and national change?

A: It’s true everything happens here. So imagine better treatment of farmworkers; a saner water policy; stricter laws along the lines of the one protecting egg-laying hens; more official use of local food; better control of drugs and chemicals in farming; a statewide soda tax. One could go on, because fantasies can be made possible here. But of course it will take work.


If you haven’t tuned in, be sure to live-stream next week’s Edible Education 101. Raj Patel will join Mr. Bittman. And if you haven’t yet read about it, learn about the University of California’s Global Food Initiative by visiting this website.


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Mark Bittman at UC Berkeley