Sunday, October 15 and Monday, October 16 in Montecatini Terme, Tuscany, the second meeting of the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance was held, with nearly 200 chefs from seven countries: Albania, Russia, Italy, Iceland, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
At the heart of the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance meeting this year was a focus on climate change and the ways that chefs can help mitigate this phenomenon.
Slow Food has launched an international campaign to support projects that fight climate change and Alliance chefs will be its most important advocates.
Food production is both a cause and victim of climate change, and the source of a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. Food produced with intensive industrial systems, using powerful chemicals and mechanization, huge amounts of water, selected animal breeds and high-yielding seeds has failed the planet and is eroding its biodiversity. As an alternative to this agricultural model, Slow Food proposes supporting local rural communities that produce food sustainably, preserving traditional knowledge at risk of disappearing.
The Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance brings together more than 800 chefs from 20 countries, from Albania to the Netherlands, from Morocco to Mexico, supporting small-scale producers, the custodians of biodiversity who use products from the Presidia and Ark of Taste in their kitchens, as well as “good, clean and fair” vegetables, fruit, and cheese produced locally.
Every day Alliance chefs put Slow Food campaigns into action through initiatives to cut food waste, refuse GM products, encourage reduced meat consumption and favor biodiversity. But it doesn’t stop there. The chefs of the Alliance come together to participate in events and cook together. As on this occasion, where on Sunday evening, October 15, four chefs from Albania, Russia, Iceland and Belgium cooked for their colleagues in Montecatini. During the day, 50 Italian Presidia producers participated in a market that brought more than 500 products that are safeguarded by Slow Food to this Tuscan town.
Gísli Matthías Auðunsson of the Slippurinn restaurant in Vestmannaeyjar represented Iceland: “I come from a tiny island with just 4000 people, so its easy for knowledge to disappear, and we really need to preserve it. I like to work towards that by emphasizing everything that is good about our food, and the people that make it. So we talk about the local wild herbs that we cook with and the small-scale producers that we support.”
Matriona Shahini of the Amel restaurant in Përmet, Albania: “Slow Food means appreciating the value of a product, the person who produces it, the person who cooks it, the person who brings it to your table. The whole chain. The Chefs’ Alliance is an army of people with the same objective: saving the traditions of our parents and grandparents, and the clean, pure, delicious food they have passed down to us.”
Evgeny Vikentev of Hamlet+Jacks in St. Petersburg, Russia: “Using local ingredients in Russia is difficult, and a market for quality local produce has only really existed for the last five years. Just ten years ago all the restaurants were using only imported ingredients, because it was easier. But now with my team we are we are looking to connect with local farmers and suppliers every day. It can be difficult, but it’s the right thing to do to help our local economy and the development of modern Russian gastronomy.”
Damien Bouchéry of Bouchéry in Brussels, Belgium: “I’m happy to be part of the Alliance because it reflects what I believe in, what I am. It’s not simple in Belgium and there is so much work to do to create shorter value chains connecting producers to restaurants. Thankfully the local government is making land available for anyone who wants to grow vegetables outside the city, and I go to visit these gardens to see what they can provide. Of course in the winter it’s very difficult to secure local supplies, but we have a small network that I trust to provide quality ingredients. It may cost more, but it’s worth it for the quality, as well as for the creation of jobs in our local area.”