In the company of two talented chefs from Noma's non-profit Nordic Food Lab, director Andreas Johnsen travels the world to sample a variety of insects and investigate whether bugs are the solution to global malnutrition and food shortages.
Why is it important to study how insects can become part of our diet in the Western world?
Basically, it's a question of feeding the world's growing population while still looking out for the planet. Insects are predicted to be the next big food trend because of their nutritional potential, low environmental cost and, some would say, good taste. But to have a real impact, it has to advance from an interesting idea to a greater trend.
What are the biggest obstacles to that?
Clearly the cultural barriers against eating insects ... We have no tradition for it. So most people think it's disgusting. I try to examine how to break down the cultural barriers. If you had never seen a shellfish or a chicken before, you would think that was disgusting, too. How do you change that attitude? But it's also a matter of how the food is going to be produced. If we successfully persuade people to eat insects, we have to start mass-producing them, and how do we ensure that industrially produced bugs taste as good as what we find in nature?
What's your most extreme experience so far?
I have always been a very curious person and I'm never afraid to try all sorts of weird things, seen from a Western perspective. So it wasn't really that much of a leap for me to start eating insects. The chefs and I even ate them alive sometimes just to see how that tasted. There's a reason why people all over the world eat insects. It usually has to do with the fact that they taste good.
Is there any specific insect you would recommend?
Yes, take something like a termite queen, a termite roughly eight centimetres long and full of eggs. It's really delicious, almost like foie gras.
Ben Reade and Josh Evans are two chefs working on a three-year grant to study the practice of eating insects in different cultures around the world. Andreas Johnsen tags along to record and document their fieldwork. To date, they have visited Australia, Mexico, Peru and parts of Africa. Their next stop is Japan.
Bugs is produced by Sigrid Dyekjær for Rosforth Film and Danish Documentary Production.