The Semaine Bio in Namur, one of the most important sustainable agriculture events, has served as the launchpad for the official inauguration of the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance in Belgium.
The launch took place on Saturday June 4 at 11 am, and was marked by a joyful atmosphere and a commitment to action and involvement, as was clear from the expressions of the smiling chefs on the stage and the words they spoke to the public. Slow Food is very proud of these people, people who share with all their heart the movement’s fights and challenges: to keep alive traditions, to protect biodiversity, to eat seasonal and local food and to help small-scale producers, paying them a fair price and shopping at local markets.
As part of the project launch, an information stand dedicated to Slow Food and the Alliance had been set up next to the stage, along with a kitchen where three chefs spent the day turning out delicious creations. Philippe Renard (from Philosophie de Cuisine in Liège), Claude Pohlig (from Cuisine Potager in Chaumont-Gistoux) and Felice Miluzzi (from Rossi in Leuven) were cooking with local, seasonal produce and some Slow Food Presidia, like raw-milk Herve and the Hesbaye and Land of Herve Artisanal Syrup. The initiative proved very successful, with the public impressed by the chefs’ passion and skill. Visitors were particularly interested not just in the cooking techniques used by also in the origins of the locally sourced ingredients.
“It’s been 40 years that I wake up at 4 am to go to the local market and see what the producers can offer me on that specific day. I look forward to the changing seasons and put together my recipes based on what nature offers us locally and seasonally,” says Claude Pohlig. “Vegetables are the highlight of my dishes, they’re what I love to cook the most. Everything else comes after.” Indeed, the primacy of vegetables is a theme shared by all three of these chefs. Philippe Renard, an active member of the local Slow Food network for more than 15 years, tells us that the vegetables he uses in his restaurant come strictly from within a 30-kilometer radius of his restaurant. What’s more, each month one vegetable becomes the star of his menu, so that diners can get to know many different ways of preparing a single seasonal ingredient. The third chef, Felice Miluzzi, is an Italian who came to Belgium nine years ago after working in various restaurants in Italy, including with Massimo Bottura. His unusual menus offer a reinterpretation of traditional, regional Italian cuisine, using both local produce and seasonal Italian ingredients, including several Slow Food Presidia.
Now what? What will be the next steps for Slow Food in Belgium? We asked Patrick Böttcher, the project’s coordinator and administrator of the Slow Food Metropolitan Brussels Convivium. “Belgium is a strange country: a reference point for Europe at an institutional level, but at the same time an internally very irregular country. At times it is hard to establish a dialog and debate between the French, German, English and Flemish worlds. Perhaps the Alliance project will contribute to turning around the local situation, helping to create a common thread around Belgium, made up of willing and passionate chefs who are working to safeguard biodiversity, support small-scale food producers and promote dishes from traditions in Belgium and elsewhere. In regards to Slow Food’s other projects in Belgium, we are working to create two new Presidia, for traditional Lambic and the West Flanders Red cattle breed. We are also working to increase the number of Belgian products aboard the Ark of Taste, and we hope to contribute in a very positive way to the relaunch of the project.”