From the Refettorio Paris to the Roads of Europe: Margaux and Maxime’s Slow Food Journey

06 Sep 2023

Margaux Brochier and Maxime Bonnabry-Duval have always shared a passion for food. Now the couple are transforming their passion into a project by embarking on a year-long journey through Europe to meet sustainable producers and members of the Slow Food network.

This article tells the story of the couple’s journey through Europe, as they meet the unsung heroes behind every ingredient and discover the bond between the land, its produce, and the people. Join us as we retrace their journey and break bread with those they meet.

A Crossing of Paths in a Parisian Kitchen

Margaux and Maxime’s journey began at the Refettorio Paris, a community kitchen founded by Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore. The Refettorio tackles food waste and promotes social inclusion, transforming surplus food into nutritious, delicious meals for vulnerable communities.

Margaux was project manager, Maxime head chef—and it didn’t take long for their paths to cross.

“I found more than just a companion in Margaux”, Maxime tells us. “I found someone who shared my appreciation for life, culture, and the stories you get through food.”

Margaux smiles. “We’re both Epicureans,” she agrees, “and fewer things give us more pleasure in life than food. But it was more than just the food that brought us together at the Refettorio; it was the human aspect of sharing a meal, building social bonds, and celebrating beauty, kindness, and dignity.”

The couple soon started traveling during their vacations, exploring France in Maxime’s caravan to meet producers, chefs and food artisans. With every flavor, meal, and tradition they encountered, their appetite for travel grew—until their decision to turn their passion into a project led them to leave the Refettorio and embark on a new adventure.

A year-long Slow Food journey across Europe.

“We plan to produce a documentary to highlight this unique journey around food and the practices involved in producing it,” they tell us. “Now is more important than ever that people know where the food on their plate comes from—and we want to play our part.”

→ Follow their journey on Instagram

Embarking on their European Journey

“Our trip so far has taken us from France to Turkey, traveling through Spain, Italy and the Balkans. Then we’re driving down to Greece,” Margaux says, “to meet producer communities there.”

“That sounds like so much when you read it back,” laughs Maxime, “but we’re actually taking it slow—taking time to meet each and every producer. To get a deeper understanding of their history and philosophy.”

This slow but steady approach is what defines the couple’s journey, and what inspired Slow Food to introduce them to our network. Their curiosity has led them to discover a variety of sustainable farming practices that respect nature, value biodiversity and preserve local traditions—in line with our philosophy.

This is not epicurean gastronomic travel, or traveling purely to satisfy the tastebuds. It’s an awareness-raising journey built on human connections, which offers a glimpse of the agroecological practices that are seeding a sustainable future. 

What binds their trip together more than food is an appreciation of beauty. Margaux and Maxime believe that aesthetics play a fundamental role in building a better world. And so, through their camera lens, they seek to capture the splendor of the landscapes, traditions and people they meet, underlining the harmony between humankind and nature.

Unearthing the Salt Pans of Añana, Basque Country

Fewer landscapes blend natural bounty with human ingenuity like the salt pans of Añana in northern Spain.

The salt pans date back to the dying days of the Roman Republic in the first century BCE. But it wasn’t so much the area’s salt that drew Roman interest as its silver; and it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that salt became an important local commodity.

The region’s salt trade fell into decline from the 1960s onwards as families abandoned the valleys for more prosperous urban areas. But Añana salt has since undergone a renaissance, thanks largely to Slow Food.

In 2006 Slow Food onboarded Añana salt onto its Ark of Taste and established the Añana Salt Presidium. (DA VERIFICARE) Its aim to spread awareness about the salt flats and to promote the products on the national and international market has seen considerable success, preserving biodiversity and sustaining the local economy.

Preserving Ancient Traditions

Añana wasn’t the only place where Margaux and Maxime found traces of their Roman ancestors. Stretches of Rome’s aqueducts accompanied them throughout their journey through the wine-producing regions of France, olive groves of Italy, and even the oyster farms of Croatia.

“We never expected that irrigation techniques dating back 2500 years would still be in use today,” admits the couple. “But our eyes were opened in Italy, while helping a producer pick olives on their grove. While we were pruning back the branches, she explained to us that the best approach to production often involved harnessing modern technology in support of traditional methods.”

“Why reinvent the wheel,” she shrugged, “when all we need is already here?”

Breaking Bread in Galicia, Spain

One of the couple’s most memorable encounters was in Galicia, northwest Spain, toward the beginning of their journey. “Slow Food put us in touch with José Luiz, a Galician cow breeder, who has made it his mission to protect five endangered native breeds.”

They graze outdoors, all year round, roaming around the region’s breathtaking rugged landscape.

“Beyond José’s respectful approach to animals, it was his philosophy and perspective on the relationship between humans and nature that resonated with us,” Margaux says. “After spending the day exploring his farm, he invited us to share a few bottles of the region’s wine with him while we discussed life and the world.”

“He shared his life’s journey and personal reflections with us, which was made all the more immersive by breaking bread at his table. This immersion into the inner world of this producer, whom we had just met a few hours earlier, reinforced our belief that collaboration is key to a more sustainable future—working with people who nourish society while nurturing the Earth.”

Later in Spain, they met a young fisher couple, also part of the Slow Food network, who produced dried conger eels. “They were the only ones in the area still offering this traditional product, sustaining an old family tradition that gave sailors the means to carry food.”

Seeding a Vegetable Garden in Srednje, Slovenia

Maxime and Margaux’s journey to Srednje, in the heart of the Slovenian mountains, brought them into contact with Jeanne and Matteo and their extraordinary vegetable garden.

“Garden doesn’t quite do it justice,” clarifies Margaux. “It’s more a work of art, where the harmony of colors, sizes and shapes of the plantings is carefully, perfectly orchestrated.”

At the height of summer, their garden is an explosion of color and a pure expression of beauty in a dramatic environment. Jeanne and Matteo tend to it with their hands, using their few tools sparingly and dedicating an abundance of attention.

Seeding the vegetable garden in Slovenia

The fruits of their labor are evident: delicious, aesthetically beautiful vegetables that make their way into the kitchen of Chef Ana Ross and her two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Hisa Franko.

Maxime and Margaux said goodbye to Jeanne and Matteo towards the end of May, just before a thousand colors and flavors filled up the garden. But July’s month of storms and hail wiped out their tomatoes and a large part of their production.

“It’s hard to say whether what happened was due to climate change, though this summer has brought devastating floods and fires to vast swathes of Europe. But one thing’s for sure: as a farmer you really depend on nature, and being able to adapt (DA VERIFICARE) is fundamental.”

Forging Connections through the Slow Food Network

“Slow Food has helped us enormously in meeting producers during our journey,” emphasizes the couple. But we also allowed ourselves to be guided by the advice of others and sometimes by the spontaneity of our encounters along the way.”

“We can’t wait to share the final project with everyone”, says Margaux, “but honestly, we’re also in no rush to finish.”

“This is just the beginning,” says Maxime, smiling. “The world is full of flavors.”

Has Margaux and Maxime’s story inspired you?

Check out Slow Food travel (DA VERIFICARE) and see where your culinary curiosity can take you.

Join (DA VERIFICARE) the Slow Food movement and become part of the change.

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