MOFAD Executive Director Peter Kim: “We Encourage Self-Directed Exploration of Food”


Two years ago, Booker and Dax’s Dave Arnold first announced plans for the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD), a nonprofit organization that intends to explore the ways food and beverage impact our culture, politics, economy, history, and more. And now, he and his team have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the museum’s first pop-up exhibit, “BOOM! The Puffing Gun and the Rise of Breakfast Cereal,” which will debut in August barring any funding obstacles.

We caught up with MOFAD’s executive director, Peter Kim, who chatted a bit about how the project has grown since it was first announced and where it goes from here.

Tell us a little bit about how this project has evolved.
The museum is Dave Arnold’s brainchild–it was an idea kicking around in his head for a few years, and he pushed forward in earnest two years ago when he held a fundraiser event at Del Posto. We’ve spent the last year laying the groundwork, pulling together the team, and laying out a strategic plan.

In that, we came to the conclusion that building a brick-and-mortar museum is a lot of work, so we’re rethinking the traditional museum model. We don’t want to wait until the brick-and-mortar museum opens to start doing things, so we’re going to do a series of mobile pop-up exhibits. We’ll use that to start creating content and building an audience, so we can get the museum out there.

How did you get involved?
I was working as an attorney, and I went to that fundraiser. I took MOFAD on pro bono to help set it up as a 501(c)(3), and then came over as executive director about a year ago. It’s a serious passion project. This is something that we really believe in.

So why the puffing machine?
We had hundreds of ideas bouncing around, but we narrowed it down to the puffing machine because it’s sensational and it tells a very important story. It dates back to the industrialization of food. This technology really revolutionized the food industry; it formed the basis of the snack industry. So it has this unique heritage and fascinating science. It’s a focal point to inspire people to see the science behind food culture as well as the larger narrative behind industrial production.

Assuming you get the money to move forward, how will this exhibit work?
We’ve secured a location in New York to be the site of our public launch, though unfortunately, we can’t disclose it yet. We’ll be rolling it out there in August, and when we feel confident, we’ll be heading to community organizations around the city and displaying in city parks, schools, and plazas. Dave will talk about what this thing is and why it’s important, and then we’ll do a countdown and puff something. That’s quite an experience. To get the machine to release the immense amount of pressure needed for a puff, you have to thwack it with a metal rod. That’s just how you do it. This specific machine was designed by Kellogg. It’s crazy to think about having to hit this thing with a stick to get it fire.

After each demo, people will be able to taste what we puffed. We’ll have MOFAD volunteers talk about the technology and the connections between this machine and science and industrial food production as well as the significance of puffed grains around the world.

How long will it run?
It depends on how much money we raise from Kickstarter, but we hope through the first couple of weeks of October. Then it would be great to take this exhibit outside of New York City. That’s part of the beauty of having this museum composed of mobile exhibits; we can take it wherever we can drive it.

And then you’ll roll out another exhibit here?
Yes. We have a lot of crazy ideas for the next exhibits.

What’s the broader goal of MOFAD?
We’re always asked, “What does MOFAD cover? New York food culture? U.S. food culture?” Well, first and foremost, capital-F capital-D Food and Drink. One thing we’re looking to do with these mobile exhibits is get across the breadth of the museum. We’re focusing on these unique individual stories, but as an ensemble, they get across the ways in which food and drink is woven into culture, environment, the global economy, politics, and more. We’re looking forward to surprising people.

We think it’s crazy that nothing like this exists in New York right now. Food has come front and center not just in culture but also in politics and in so many other ways. In our view, the museum is important in educating people about food because food is inherently personal. We encourage self-directed exploration of food, and a museum is an ideal way to do that.

MOFAD’s Kickstarter campaign runs until July 20.