It’s hard to imagine a chef willingly giving up control over their kitchen. However, when a group comes together for a good cause, it seems it is easy to disprove the perennial myth of the chef as an egotistical star. Last month, five chefs from three countries came together for an event in Pollenzo, Italy. While the streets of Bra were filled with the stalls and activities of Cheese – Slow Food’s biennial international celebration of all things dairy – a nearby hotel, Albergo dell’Agenzia, hosted an event known as an ‘Alliance Dinner’. The dinner showcased the Alliance Between Chefs and Slow Food Presidia project; an initiative which establishes connections between chefs and local small-scale producers. Launched in Italy in 2009, the project sees chefs committed to supporting good, clear and fair food work together with Slow Food Presidia, and use their products in restaurants, bistros and osterias. Alongside Italy, the project is now active in the Netherlands and Morocco. This recent dinner saw chefs from sun-drenched Sicily, the canals of Amsterdam, the desert of Morocco and local Piedmont come together to cook up a delicious feast. From the aperitif to the coffee, the common thread was the appreciation of unusual local products at risk of extinction, and support for the Slow Food Presidia. Habib Balatif, chef at Café du Sud in Tagounite, a small village on the edge of the part of the Sahara Desert known as Erg Chigaga prepared a Moroccan pastilla, stuffed with chicken cooked with Taliouine saffron, Noto almonds, Certaldo onions and cinnamon; while local chef Pierpaolo Livorno from the Agenzia restaurant prepared a starter with Carmagnola peppers filled with Tuscan Sea palamita and Salina capers. Dutch chefs Joris Bijdendijk and Geert Burema from the restaurants Bridges and Merkelbach, both in Amsterdam, presented a starter based on dried mullet caught by traditional Wadden Sea fishers served with a parsley sauce and red beets. Their first course was a composition of cauliflower fried in clarified butter on a pumpkin and parsnip puree, paired with Naegelholt, a kind of air-dried beef (Ark of Taste) and aged artisanal Gouda. Finally, Andrea Alì from the osteria Da Andrea in Palazzolo Acreide in the Sicilian province of Syracuse presented a crema catalana made with carob flour, Sicilian black bee honey, Noto almonds and cane sugar. The dinner concluded with a cup of Harenna coffee, a Presidium from Ethiopia, a single-origin arabica that grows in the Harenna Forest. All in all, a fantastic feast, a perfect partnership and a delicious demonstration of what the Alliance is working towards. Learn more about the Alliance project and discover the member restaurants here: www.slowfoodfoundation.com/alliance
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