Charles Michel

Charles Michael connects art, gastronomy, experimental psychology, crossmodalism, human-centered design, theory of change and ritual to catalyse communities and foster human development. He has recently starred as a master chef in Netflix’ latest food show The Final Table, but my work has taken many shapes.

Charles has published over 12 papers in peer-reviewed journals on multisensory science, co-created a multisensory VR experience to take the viewer to the Amazon forest, and a spoon that enhances flavour perception and nudges towards healthier, more mindful eating.

At the intersection of community and social change, he’s helped design a sustainable village project in Ecuador (Tanusas), founded an artistic movement (Crossmodalism) inspired by total art and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Charles also has designed transformational gatherings (Domus) and directed events for hundreds of young leaders (Sandbox) in Kenya, Europe and South America. 

He’s given over 30 talks on the future of food and eating, on stages such as The Royal Society with Prof. Brian Cox, at The Royal Institution’s famous “Faraday Theatre”, Tech conferences, Burning Man, TEDxHackney and TEDxMogadishu. He currently teaches through Patreon, and have designed courses on Culinary Leadership, Sensorial Exploration and Luxury Gastronomy for the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon.

3 words to describe Nature?

LIFE. UNIVERSAL. SACRED. 

3 things Nature taught you?

That humans are the nervous system of the planet, in the way we exchange information and resources. 

That it is the greatest source of wisdom and innovation, if we know how to look, and if we pay enough attention to what is really going on, putting time into perspective.

That contemplation is a natural state of humans, and that doing it more often is healthy, just like meditation. 

3 most treasured Nature spots?

The “Heart of the World” - Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta in Colombia, home to the largest indigenous tribe still operating in pre-Columbian ways.

The forest where we build a treehouse with my father, near Bordeaux.

Iceland in the winter… I felt like traveling on a different planet.

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Small… I have a deep sense of reverence to the Ocean, it is a mystery that we are not able to understand fully.

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

Connected to everything. Abundant. 

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

The immense power of the flying rock we are standing on and we call home. A mix of fear and full presence. 

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

Pure Awe…

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

A blend of excitement and humility. And extreme comfort, if I find myself in a warm, dry place. 

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

Energised. I feel it carries a message. 

In ancient pre-columbian wisdom, the wind is a woman who carries a song, a message that we must listen to carefully.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

I think I’m a forest person. The trees reaching their arms up to the sky, roots deep into the black earth, the mycelium web intimately and discreetly interconnecting everything. The vegetation capturing and storing sunlight, water and carbon to sustain life and ignite the cycles. Breathing organism, pulsating to the energy of solstices, dancing with light and dark. 

I relate to Forests more than any other living ecosystem.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10. We should listen to nature more often…

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

I was 7 or 8, in the eastern Orinoco plains of Colombia. My family owns land and are farmers and ranchers. I remember the day I went on a full day of work with my cousins, all barefoot riding horses, to go check on the cattle in remote parcels of land. Crossing rivers, passing by caimans and seeing flocks of birds flying. The journey lasted for about 8 hours, I remember well the feeling when we got back to the ranch at sunset… the smell of the tired sweaty horse, the mud on my feet, the companionship of family and the comfortable shelter where the mothers had prepared warm sancocho soup and cold “agua de panela” - water with raw cane syrup and lemon… I was proud to have made it!


Davis Smith

DAVIS SMITH is the founder and CEO of Cotopaxi, an outdoor gear brand with a humanitarian mission. He is also a member of the eight-person United Nations Foundation's Global Entrepreneurs Council. Davis is a serial entrepreneur who previously started Baby.com.br, Brazil’s Startup of the Year in 2012. Davis holds an MBA from the Wharton School, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA from BYU. Davis is an adventurer who has visited 70 countries. He has floated down the Amazon on a self-made raft, camped in the Sahara Desert, kayaked from Cuba to Florida, and explored North Korea.

3 words to describe Nature?

Raw, Fragile, Inspiring

3 things Nature taught you?

I began spending time in the outdoors before I can remember, but some of my first lessons learned while adventuring with my father are that:

1. Nature needs to be respected because while infinitely beautiful, it will eat you alive.

2. In my lowest moments, nature has lifted me up and inspired me.

3. I’ve always felt that nature has shown me that there is something bigger than myself. Spending time in the outdoors connects me with things that are truly important.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

1. The red rock canyons of Southern Bolivia, where I lived for a number of years as a young adult.

2. Cotopaxi national park in Ecuador, where I spent some of my childhood and early teen years.

3. The Wasatch Mountains that tower above Salt Lake City, where I currently live.

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Small and vulnerable.

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

Safe, overwhelmed with beautiful sounds, smells and sights.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

Humbled and melancholy (I grew up in the Andes surrounded by amazing volcanos which I often summited with my father).

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

Overwhelming joy. Is there anything that can fill a heart or bring a smile faster?

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

An urge to run and duck for cover!

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

Somewhat intimidated, but I love the sound when I’m in a tent.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

I’ve spent eight years living in the Caribbean, so I’m obsessed with the ocean. I love kayak touring, diving, snorkeling, spearfishing and camping on the beach. That said, I’ve lived in Utah for a number of years now and have really grown to love the mountains.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is to your well-being?

8. I love the outdoors, but I own an outdoor gear brand and have a small family, both which keep me indoors quite often. I’ve found that surrounded by people I love, I can also get immense joy even when not outdoors.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Some of my fondest memories as a child were spending time adventuring with my dad. We once built our own raft and floated down the Amazon river fishing for piranha. We also survived on uninhabited islands in the Caribbean, spearing fish with home-made spears. My brother and I spent hours every day exploring and building forts in the jungle behind our home when we lived in Puerto Rico. My childhood is full of memories in nature. Most incredibly pleasant, but some memories are of times that were terrifying and scary. It was those moments, however, that gave me such a deep respect for nature and taught me to respect it and always be prepared for the worst.