Terra Madre 2006

09 Mar 2006

The Italian edition of Slow (number 53) comes out this week. The foreign language editions will be available shortly. Here is a sample article about the project to bring 1,000 cooks to the Terra Madre event in Turin in October.

Enter the Chefs … and Cooks
The second edition of Terra Madre will be even more innovative than the first, held in 2004. Along with food communities, Slow Food has invited about a thousand cooks and chefs from all over the world — representing all aspects of the catering industry from haute cuisine to traditional cooking — to attend this year’s event. Exactly twenty years ago Slow Food embarked on its journey with these people and today we are returning to them. During Terra Madre the chefs will meet with communities and express their solidarity and unity of purpose, participating in the construction of a new, different food ‘multinational’. They will be asked to adopt specific products from these communities and make them a symbol of their work and responsibilities in the production sector. In this way we hope to fuse the different ‘souls’ of our Movement, and also to close the circle round the new theory we have elaborated of gastronomy as a multidisciplinary science encompassing all aspects of the food sector from cultivation to digestion, free of class distinction and scientific classification in its treatment of knowledge, and conscious both of contemporary reality, of which it is part, and the long history it has behind it.
We spoke to some of the leading players in the project. This is what they had to say.

Ferrán Adriá
The famous Catalan chef, owner of the El Bulli restaurant in Las Rosas, was among the first to respond to Slow Food’s invitation to take part in Terra Madre 2006.
On his part in the event
Firstly I’d like to make a contribution to the topics under discussion at Terra Madre — one fundamental question in particular that’s rarely discussed. In our sector everyone talks about how to get hold of the best caviar, the best lobster, the best truffles: this is the leitmotiv of all the so-called top chefs. I’d like to put a stop to this. We need to start worrying about the best sugar, the best milk, the best eggs. Meaningh the basic ingredients. There’s no handmade sugar brand available for chefs to buy. Nor are there brands or producers of salt (apart from the fantastic but highly individual fleurs de sel) for a better quality choice. At Terra Madre we should ask ourselves how to find the basic products we need, since the worrying level of standardization also makes this difficult. We can’t cook without eggs, salt and milk. Everything could fall apart. We need to start asking where these products can be sourced locally. I know it’s difficult, but it really is time to start talking about all this.
On quality
Choosing more socially correct products goes hand-in-hand with the question of flavor and aroma. It’s no coincidence that I’ve agreed to work with a foundation called Alicia that promotes good products, protecting biodiversity and paying fair wages to workers. Doctors are also involved in the program and the mentally challenged work on it, too. We organize educational programs and try to recover all the old Catalan varieties. We want to redefine the way people eat at home over the next twenty years. We want to see them eating good, healthy food, But, I repeat, ethics shouldn’t interfere with goodness, which, for me, is essential.
On the meaning of ‘gastronomy’
If you’re wondering what’s going to happen in world of gastronomy, it’s impossible to say where the next novelty will come from. Spain’s had its turn. So who’s coming next? Brazil, The Netherlands? Let me tell you an anecdote. The New York Times had just honored me with a front page headline saying I was the best chef on earth. Right after that I had to take a trip to China with a party of ambassadors and VIPs to promote Spain. One night we were having dinner with important representatives of the Chinese farm food system. When the Spanish ambassador introduced me as the best chef in the world, the Chinese looked at each other. ‘The best in the West maybe!’ one of them blurted out. The fact is we know nothing about ‘worlds’ outside our own. We should ask ourselves ‘What is India?’: there’s no Michelin Guide to help you there. We know nothing about the most important chefs in India and China. That’s why, right after being proclaimed the best, I said to myself, ‘I’m an idiot, I know nothing’. By bringing together cooks from all over the world, Terra Madre should also help us discover other places, draw near to them and understand them better. Because we are ignorant about the complexities of world cuisine, we think Europe’s the centre of the world. This is the final consideration. Or maybe it’s a starting point.

Moshe Basson
A freelance Iraqi-Jewish chef and a native Arabic speaker, well-known to Slow Food following his nomination for the 2000 Award for Biodiversity. He works with the ‘Chefs for Peace’ association of Israeli and Palestinian cooks, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, united by a love of good food.
On sustainable farming
In the Book of Deuteronomy it says: ‘When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them? However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.’. And in Leviticus, it says: ‘When you come into the land and plant any fruit tree there, first look upon its fruit as if it were uncircumcised. For three years, while its fruit remains uncircumcised, it may not be eaten. In the fourth year, however, all of its fruit shall be sacred to the Lord as a thanksgiving feast to him. Not until the fifth year may you eat its fruit. Thus it will continue its yield for you.’.

Jeff Jackson
An American, executive chef at The Lodge Restaurant in Torrey Pines (California) and a Slow food member.
On the potential benefits of an international community of cooks and chefs
I think that whenever people of like minds get together to share ideas, it benefits everyone. There is so much out there in the world to learn from.
On the relationship between cuisine and agriculture
We also spend a lot of time educating our wait staff. There is a board up in the kitchen with a list of all the farms we buy from and what comes from what farm. The staff is always aware of where things come from. And once a year I do a festival called ‘Celebrate the Craft’. The concept is to connect my guests and the guests of other participating San Diego chefs to the source of their food. We invite all the farmers we buy from, as well as some organic dairies, cheesemakers and ranchers, and we set up a Farmers’ Market on the terrace of the hotel. We invite out guests to meet the people who are growing the food that we are serving. Each chef pairs up with one of the farms and prepares what is available that day.

Alain Ducasse
Owner of Michelin-star winning restaurants in Paris, Montecarlo and New York (he was the first to obtain ‘six stars’: two restaurants with top Michelin marks).
On the use of products from food communities
I’ll be glad to use them: it’s in my interest. My obsession with products is the fruit of logical ideas that are often neglected and forgotten. For example, few people think much about the fact that there’d be no good products without good producers. Part of a chef’s job is the ability to surround himself with good breeders, fishermen, butchers, mushroom pickers, farmers … In other words, all the artisans who share his passion for taste. Terra Madre seems to me to be an ideal place to bring these wonderful people together and establish relationships. They’ve got incredible skills and we chefs are in a position to apply our own art to the fruits of their labor. We might make a comparison between art and applied art here: they’re craftsmen and we’re applied craftsmen. Without their help we can do nothing. If you take merde to make emulsion and you know the technique, all you’ll obtain will be a perfect merde emulsion! It’s all very well to talk about perfect temperatures and techniques for cooking chicken, but it’s very dangerous if this becomes the only topic of conversation among chefs. The first thing you have to ask is what a chicken has eaten during its lifetime, whether it took exercise every day! Cooking alone can’t make it good to eat. What makes it good is the life it’s led.
On the meaning of gastronomy
It means looking at a product and trying to respect its original flavor, given to it by its grower, breeder or creator. We can do this through proper preparation, proper cooking and serving it with the proper accompaniments. That’s my job and you can add to it agriculture and the multidisciplinary complexity Slow Food talks about. This, alas, is not a common topic of conversation. It’s the fault of technology and it’s really stupid. A number of very important questions revolve around gastronomy, but journalists just turn them into a game. All they want is recipes and the addresses of the best restaurants. The difference is that we chefs work on the sources, but journalists and the media just want to see the final effect. The gourmet must also work on the sources: analyzing them, you understand the precision, love and professionalism that go into a dish. Journalists just want to see the ‘wow!’ effect. That’s not what it’s all about: each dish has a story behind it that began long before the recipe or the technique used to make it.

Valérie Dakio
Owner and cook of Chez Tantie Valérie in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.
On working as a chef
What I like is the welcoming atmosphere I manage to create, but I’d also like my kiosk to be closed against the dust from the street and the wind, and I’d also like to have electricity.

Interviews by Alessandra Abbona and Carlo Bogliotti

John Irving is the editor of Slow.

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