Since launching in 2005, the master program of the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) has been a study in diversity. More than 400 students have enrolled, representing 50 nations and an age range of 22 to 66. As of September 2013, four distinct streams of the Master in Food Culture and Communications program will be offered, covering an array of themes such as human ecology, commercial communications and artisanal production, while maintaining a consistent focus on the central complexities of ecogastronomy.
As varied as the program itself is the ever-growing community of UNISG master alumni, occupying many corners of the globe and myriad professional practices. This “network of friends,” as Carlo Petrini has called it, is contributing actively to change in the food world, to the growth of the Slow Food movement, and even to the evolution of UNISG as an academic institution. Here are a few of their stories.
Luca Parigi (2011) was still a high school student when he learned about UNISG and set his sights on eventually enrolling in the program. Once he did, he found it to be a “stimulating, food-obsessed environment with plenty of knowledgeable people (both professors and students),” which opened his mind to other people’s food cultures. This openness translated to the skills he uses today, working in marketing and innovation for Barilla’s operations in Asia, Africa and Australia. A focus on “how much you will learn, not earn” is what Luca believes in, both for school life and everything that comes after.
Following her UNISG experience, Min Young No (2008) moved back to South Korea and catalyzed a series of Slow Food initiatives in a country where the movement had only a few convivia. Taking the “cultural interpreter” role of gastronome to heart, Min Young connected local producers, Slow Food leaders, and government organizations. The result? Within a year she had worked for a Slow Food festival, conference and magazine and a year later even found time to publish her own book—an illustrated account of her time at UNISG. Today, Min Young is the executive director of Food for Change, a Seoul-based NGO focusing on building sustainable food practices through education and events.
David Szanto (2006) enrolled in the first cohort of the UNISG communications master, and has been haunting the school’s halls ever since. Since 2007, he has taught courses in writing and communications there, and in 2012 became acting director of the master in Media and Representation. His goal since graduating has been to “help make studying gastronomy more accessible to more people” and to share the transformative potential of his own experience. Partly to that end, he began a PhD program in 2010 (at Concordia University in his home city of Montreal), working on a thesis that crosses the fields of food, ecology, design, performativity and cultural theory.
Systems scholars have pointed to diversity as to key a creating resilience in natural and cultural settings – from the environment to society to the economy. As the numbers and variety of the UNISG master alumni grow, new professional spaces are opening up and being occupied by them, setting the conditions for what promises to be a very resilient food future.
The University of Gastronomic Sciences was founded in 2004 by Slow Food International, in cooperation with the Italian regions of Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna, and is a ministerially recognized, private non-profit institution. Its goal is to create an international research and education center while developing a new professional figure- the gastronome. For more information, including program applications, visit www.unisg.it
Photo: © Kunal Chandra