David Moscow of ‘Big’ and ‘Newsies’ to visit Vail Symposium, talk about food production and adventures within his television series, ‘From Scratch’

David Moscow of ‘Big’ and ‘Newsies’ will join Vail Symposium to talk about the process of food production.
Jonathan Borba via Unsplash/Courtesy photo
If you go…
  • What and When: Food with Intention on a Fragile Planet with David Moscow, 6-7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at Vail Interfaith Chapel ($0-$25); Celebrating Colorado’s Historical Italian Cuisine, 8-10 p.m. Sept. 6 at Zino Ristorante ($150); Making a TV ‘From Scratch’: An Episode in Action and the Origins of a Colorado Meal, 6-7:30 p.m. Sept. 7 Vail Interfaith Chapel ($0-$25)
  • More info:

Most of us eat every day — usually at least three times — without considering all the work it takes to bring food into our home. But Hollywood actor David Moscow will tell you it takes 68 people to generate a slice of pizza. He began the television series “From Scratch” to reveal the origins of our meals. Wednesday through Friday, he’ll be in Vail hosting talks and dinners.

Perhaps best known for his role as the child actor in “Big” with Tom Hanks and “Newsies” with Christian Bale, he’s now making an impact through “From Scratch,” which is both a Nautilus Book Gold Award winner and a television series in which he harvests, hunts, fishes and forages for ingredients, unearthing the complexity of our food system and the fragility of the ecosystems upon which it relies.

The idea began as Moscow and his wife were about to have their first son. Though Moscow grew up in New York City, his mother originated from Montana, so he spent summers interacting with the wild landscapes of Montana, Utah and Maine. He wanted to share similar experiences, from fishing to apple picking, with his own kids. He approached his agent about producing a documentary about making tacos and margaritas. His agent expanded upon the idea, encouraging him to travel the world, filming everything from the hard work that takes place in the Mexican Jose Cuervo fields to the pain and pleasure of foraging for honey from African beehives to fly fishing in Utah.

Through “From Scratch,” Moscow’s two desires became one: He got to relive his childhood with his son and talk to food producers who feed the world, thus creating community.

“My childhood had been the last time I had any connection with the source of my meals, and I wanted that connection back. So I created the cable series ‘From Scratch,'” he said.

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“‘From Scratch’ is an impactful adventure around the world illuminating cultural connections with food and the real people who bring it to our tables,” said James Kenly, executive director of Vail Symposium.

Before Kenly spoke with Moscow, he expected that stereotypical Hollywood star treatment — someone who acted standoffish and aloof — but Moscow is quite the opposite. He’ll spend plenty of time telling interesting stories about the people he’s been meeting through “From Scratch.”

“He was totally present, genuinely engaged and really excited,” Kenly said. “He wanted to learn about our community and how he could make the best impact. He was excited to share about his adventure that day (shooting an episode in Portugal) harvesting a fruit with a jelly-like, edible substance inside it. He also shared that he’d been wondering about potentially focusing on Colorado for an episode in a future season. That’s all we needed to hear.”

During the phone interview for this story, Moscow talked about discovering that pregnant women and children shouldn’t eat catfish caught in eastern Tennessee weighing under four pounds, and that no one should eat them if they’re over four pounds because the rivers and lakes there are “incredibly polluted.” He told stories about a Gulf Coast shrimper first hit by Hurricane Katrina, then devastated by the BP oil spill and now destroyed by international shrimp farmers. He currently sells his shrimp for 60 cents a pound, and Moscow points out that “you can’t make a living on that.”

“I was initially interested in the community aspect of food production, but it became apparent that food producers are at the frontlines of global climate change and socio-economic issues,” he said. “Most agriculture producers live in dire poverty. We know our nurses and teachers need to be paid more, and our food producers need to be on that list.”

He talks about overfishing and how the Mediterranean and South China Sea are both “basically empty, with a couple billion people being affected,” the spiritual experience of hunting buffalo with an indigenous tribe pushed out of New Mexico by smallpox, then repopulated literally by seven people moving back to New Mexico about a hundred years ago. He describes adventurous experiences in Kenya, issues in Washington state, the problem with lobster traps and more.

‘Food producers are at the frontlines of global climate change and socio-economic issues,’ Moscow said.
Tim Mossholder via Unsplash/Courtesy photo

“At the heart of it, it ends up being: Will humanity survive, and yet you meet all these groups of people doing amazing things,” he said, adding that he remains optimistic because “the majority of people out there are awesome. I meet tons of people every day who are making food for people. Food producers are cool people. They’re problem solvers. Every day, that gives me hope.”

His Wednesday talk, “Food with Intention on a Fragile Planet” is for the general public and followed by an exclusive three-course dinner, including elk and wine pairings, for 30 people with chef Nick Haley from Zino Ristorante and Giuseppe Bosco, co-founder of Terra Madre Wine Imports.

Thursday, he hosts “Making a TV show ‘From Scratch’: An Episode in Action and the Origins of a Colorado Meal” with panelists Haley, Bosco, Scott Jones of Colorado River Ranch, Denyse Schrenker (CSU Extension Eagle County’s master gardener and horticulturalist) and Kiara Gomez from the Migrant Farm Worker Division at Colorado Legal Services. Friday, he collaborates with Rabbi Joel Newman and B’nai Vail on a Shabbat dinner by reservation only.

“We know people enjoy a behind-the-scenes Hollywood story, but David brings so much more to these programs, including environmental sustainability, social justice, history and global cultures,” Kenly said. “His presentation on Wednesday is an opportunity for our community to learn about cuisine all around the world, and the program on Thursday is a celebration of food production in Colorado and right here in Eagle County. We’ll hear about Wagyu beef from Colorado River Ranch, stone fruits, root vegetables, lettuce, as well as mushrooms from CSU Extension, and about the people who farm, fish, harvest and hunt on the Western Slope. We are fortunate with wonderful fine dining in Eagle County, but we may not be as aware of how much food production is happening here.”

Moscow hopes some ideas emerge from the Q&A sessions to base an episode of “From Scratch” on.

“One of the big themes of David’s discoveries through this ‘From Scratch’ project has been the relationship between climate change, food sources and environmental sustainability,” Kenly said, adding that Vail Symposium is partnering with Walking Mountains on this event to help promote its sustainability event on Sept. 23 called, “Climb It for Climate.” “Reconnecting with where, how and when our food is grown can have a significant impact on climate, from the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from international food shipping to the immense amounts of water required to grow crops in warming environments and drying soils and a lot in between. Many chefs in our community are attuned to incorporating local ingredients into their menus, and chef Nick Haley at Zino’s is exemplary in his efforts to create delicious dishes with local, healthy foods and a minimal environmental footprint. We’re very fortunate that David Moscow is investing so much in our community, and we hope everyone is as excited as we are about these programs.”

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