From Land to Table: culinary diplomacy exchange with chef Tiffany Derry.
This is the title of the project involving Slow Food Berat Community led by Alma Spathara in September and October 2022. In collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Albania and the Center for Culinary Education, Slow Food Berat organized two training seminars with students from hotel schools in Berat and Tirana. Chef Derry brought her experience, panache, and expertise to share with Albanian future chefs.
October is the month of olive harvesting and oil extraction, so the students from the school in Berat, along with the chef went to harvest the olives and together witnessed the production of the new oil. With that oil, and other fresh seasonal produce, they then cooked, at the cozy kitchen of Hotel Castle Park, headquarters of Slow Food Berat, traditional Texan and Albanian dishes. Cooking, as an element of unity among peoples, served to amalgamate important flavors and stories. Chef Derry’s baked squash sat next to the students’ pumpkin byrek. And chef’s jerk lamb chops competed with tavë kosi with chef Musliaka’s lamb. The experience was powerful and uplifting for all present.
At the school in Tirana, Chef Derry cooked with the students a recipe very dear to her, Gumbo in her mother’s version. It is a slow, laborious preparation, requiring a good knowledge of culinary techniques and ingredients. So many ingredients bridge the two cuisines, first and foremost precisely the ochre, which gives it its name, but also peppers, shrimp, and chicken. Instead, the students prepared qumështor, this milk cake that is also present in a different form in the United States. It was an important and unforgettable trip, experience, and culinary dialogue.