It has been six years since the first Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance officially began. Today, there are 15 countries from all parts of the globe with active chapters. Now that the project has officially attained an international presence, with hundreds of chefs dedicated to the principles of Slow Food, the goal is to build a cohesive and connected network between chefs and producers and among the member chefs themselves.
Each country that creates a Chefs’ Alliance works according to guidelines established by Slow Food International, and develops specific rules for their countries. Some countries, such as The Netherlands and Albania, emphasize Ark of Taste and Presidia products. France is one of the newest chapters and, during the Forum Meeting at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, Olivier Roellinger and Michel Bras spoke about the critical role that high-profile chefs play in terms of practicing and spreading the message of Slow Food through their work and restaurants. In Uganda, the development of the Chefs’ Alliance has allowed for a more direct channel of exchange to be established between producers and chefs as buyers. It also serves as an outlet for produce from the 10,000 Gardens in Africa project, particularly in areas where public markets are difficult to establish.
During Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, there was a kitchen dedicated to the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance project in Piazza Castello which showcased this work to the international community. Each day, a different Alliance member chef took over the kitchen and prepared a meal in front of a small audience in an open kitchen and discussed their cuisine. Kristopher Barnholden from Latab in Vancouver, British Columbia, shared some Canadian cuisine on Saturday evening. The Canadian Chefs’ Alliance has been official for about one year and it was decided that the principles of the Alliance would center around authentic Canadian cuisine, which is defined as wild and foraged foods found in the country. In addition, there is a strong link to the Slow Fish campaign, ensuring the sourcing and use of sustainable seafood by member chefs.
Kristopher Barnholden served two dishes, both inspired by Canadian cuisine and the use of local ingredients. The first was a fried flatbread made with lichen, which grows on evergreen trees, and Red Fife wheat, a Slow Food Presidium. This was topped with a quick-pickled herring and lardo. The inspiration behind this two-bite plate is the indigenous dish called ‘bannock,’ which is still eaten occasionally during times of celebration. The second plate, a maple-hazelnut tart topped with peaches, baked in the oven and served warm, was inspired by British Columbian, Québécois and European food traditions. The tart crust was a buttery sablé dough which incorporated ground pine needles. Pine has a very distinctive, resinous and citrus-like quality, which came through and balanced the sweeter flavors. It came as a surprise to some of the audience to learn how much fruit is grown in British Columbia, including peaches, which is why Kristopher Barnholden chose to include them in this dessert. Hazelnuts are grown in Canada, as well. The maple-hazelnut cream is a play on the traditional almond frangipane, utilizing one of Canada’s staple ingredients: maple syrup. Both dishes were served with a Romanian wine.
The purpose of the Alliance is to foster connections between chefs and producers, as well as between consumers and their food. Multiple events have been held by different Alliance chapters to raise funds, which are used to support the creation of new Presidia in different parts of the world. As the Chefs’ Alliance network continues to grow and strengthen, look out for more stories from these like-minded chefs and, if you happen to be traveling through an active country, stop in and support the chefs and their producers hard work and delicious cuisines.