Sri Lanka has seen the opening of its first Slow Food convivium recently, with the aim of educating consumers and chefs about traditional local foods, shortening the food distribution chain and creating a local market for quality food products rather than seeing the best produce exported.
The Colombo Convivium had its beginnings when Leonel Velazquez, an enthusiastic young Cuban chef and the convivium’s leader, was finding it difficult to obtain local organic ingredients. New to the country, he began looking into the matter and discovered that the majority of Sri Lanka’s organic food is being exported to foreign shores.
The convivium plans to hold monthly cooking classes for adults and children and to start collecting stories and recipes for a cookbook that will explore how expatriates and locals customize their eating habits according to the availability of Sri Lankan products. In addition, Leonel is launching a ‘farm-to-table’ restaurant with a chefs’ garden in one of the city’s hotels.
‘With the introduction of Slow Food we hope to help the community, especially the farmers, and utilize the best of what Sri Lanka has to offer. We use fresh vegetables and chemical-free poultry in our dishes, just like our grandfathers did in the good old days’, said Leonel. ‘I want to make people understand the food they eat and take dining beyond simply enjoying the meal by incorporating a learning aspect into it. We hope to educate diners on aspects like where the food was grown, how it tastes and how its journey from the farm to the table.’
The convivium’s first members include many talented and passionate individuals, including a writer and poet, a farmer who gives locals access to his certified organic land to grow produce, a business manager, and a molecular gastronomy chef.
‘We are used to taking the food we eat for granted, so I’m introducing Slow Food to make people look at their food differently’, says Leonel. ‘I want to ensure that every day we all fight to educate others, and let them know that cooking good food with love is Slow Food.’
Contact Slow Food Columbo convivium leader: