FOOD FOR CHANGE 2021:
RELAIS & CHÂTEAUX AND SLOW FOOD TOGETHER TO PROTECT BIODIVERSITY
Thanks to the nominations of Relais & Châteaux chefs, 85 products in 28 countries have been approved to the Ark of Taste, the Slow Food project that saves foods at risk of extinction around the world: a goal that will be celebrated from 7 to 10 October with a global campaign dedicated to rediscovering local products and flavors.
From October 7th-10th, the fourth edition of Food for Change will take place, which is an annual campaign promoted by both Slow Food, an international non-profit association committed to restoring the value of food, and Relais & Châteaux, the world’s largest network of chefs united by their belief in a better world through cuisine and hospitality.
For five years, the two associations have joined forces to protect biodiversity, fight climate change and preserve culinary heritage. This year, Food for Change focuses on the rediscovery and protection of near-extinct local products: thanks to a global call to action to members worldwide, who are the guardians of local culinary traditions, 85 products in 28 countries nominated by Relais & Châteaux have been added to Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, which raises awareness of their existence and denounces the risk of their disappearance.
The nominations went under a strict evaluation process through 20 technical committees, Slow Food’s Content and Projects Hub and the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo before being approved to the Ark of Taste: an important task that will continue in the coming weeks and months, cementing the link between the two associations.
The 85 passengers of the Ark of Taste
Created in 1996, the Ark of Taste is an online catalogue of more than 5,500 products that belong to the cultures, history and traditions of the planet: seeds, native fruit and vegetables, but also local and little-known breeds, and processed products that are the result of ancient traditions whose extinction would also cause the disappearance of flavors and recipes that have been handed down for generations.
Changing social and cultural conditions may endanger these products. One example is kumatiya, a small deciduous, thorny tree from Rajasthan nominated by Jaisal Singh, owner of Relais & Châteaux SUJÁN Jawai (Rajasthan). Its hearty seeds, shiny and flat, are widely used in the local cuisine to make curries and other popular dishes; today it is in danger of extinction as it has been removed from arable land in favor of a shift to conventional agriculture. Urban and industrial development and the need to make room for more profitable crops such as vineyards are also threatening Sebastopol Gravenstein Apple orchards, a symbol of Sonoma County’s agricultural diversity and family farming. Chef Kyle Connaughton of Relais & Châteaux Single Thread Farm (USA, California) and his wife and farmer Katina Connaughton both support biodiversity in a region that is becoming more and more covered with vineyards through the symbolic preservation of the Gravenstein apple, which used to grow on 7000 acres, but now only 700 acres.
In other cases, it is the standardization of food and the peculiar conditions required for cultivation, breeding and preparation that threaten the survival of authentic pieces of local history. One example is the Valdarno Black Chicken, the symbol of Chianti, which made it onto the Ark of Taste thanks to the recommendation of chef Gaetano Trovato of Relais & Châteaux Restaurant Arnolfo (Italy): the survival of this local breed of poultry with a particularly tasty meat, unsuitable for intensive farming due to its low income, now depends exclusively on the small farmers who look after it by raising it outdoors in the Valdarno countryside. A destiny shared by Persillé de Tignes Cheese, a rustic artisanal cheese with a chalky consistency, already known in the time of Charlemagne. Today it survives thanks to the work of a single family of producers (the Marmottan family farm), supported by chef Julien Dumas of the Relais & Châteaux Saint James Paris (France) through purchasing from his cheesemonger friend and Meilleur Ouvrier de France Bernard Mure-Ravaud, so that the Persillé de Tigne’s strong and unmistakable taste of flowers and herbs is not completely lost.
Food for Change 2021: the campaign
From October 7th-10th, Relais & Châteaux and Slow Food will celebrate the results of this joint effort with a global campaign to raise awareness about this issue of absolute importance for the health of local areas and their economies, and for the quality and taste of the food brought to our tables every day.
Through physical events and virtual initiatives, Relais & Châteaux chefs will: illustrate the importance of the products they have nominated within the local culinary heritage; explain how to cook them; raise awareness of the right way to harvest them that respects the environment; and preserve the biodiversity of the terroir by either eating more of a product to stimulate its production or in some cases less to allow the species to rest and regenerate. Telling their stories and supporting local producers are fundamental to rediscovering and protecting the products of the Ark of Taste.
“Biodiversity is not only genetic, but also cultural; it comes from and belongs to the heritage and traditions of the entire planet,” comments Slow Food president Carlo Petrini. “With the industrialization of our food system, we risk losing both the hundreds of corn varieties and the savoir-faire of a small village’s cheese producer.”
While agricultural biodiversity and small-scale, family-based food production systems are under threat around the world, food choices can collectively influence the way food is grown, produced and distributed, and trigger a real change. It is a belief and a commitment that unites Slow Food and more than 580 Relais & Châteaux members, who are all committed towards making a better world through cuisine and hospitality and supporting farmers who breed and use local products, as pledged at UNESCO in 2014
For Olivier Roellinger, Vice President of Relais & Châteaux, “What’s the point of eating the same food or drinking the same wine in every country around the world? Relais & Châteaux properties represent the diversity of cuisines; they are guardians of biodiversity, sharing all that is good and beautiful in this world.”
For more information about the campaign and its protagonists:
To view the full list of approved products: https://bit.ly/3ldAc4m
About Relais & Châteaux
Established in 1954, Relais & Châteaux is an association of more than 580 landmark hotels and restaurants operated by independent innkeepers, chefs and owners who share a passion for their businesses and a desire for authenticity in their relationships with their clientele.
Relais & Châteaux is established around the globe, from the Napa Valley vineyards and French Provence to the beaches of the Indian Ocean. It offers an introduction to a lifestyle inspired by local culture and a unique dip into human history. Relais & Châteaux members have a driving desire to protect and promote the richness and diversity of the world’s cuisine and traditions of hospitality. They are committed to preserving local heritage and the environment, as encompassed in the charter presented to UNESCO in November 2014.
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Slow Food is a worldwide network of local communities founded in 1989 in order to counteract the disappearance of local food traditions and the spread of fast food culture. Since then, Slow Food has grown to become a global movement that involves millions of people in more than 160 countries and works so that we can all have access to good, clean and fair food.