Your restaurant’s kitchen probably incorporates some environmentally friendly practices like recycling or composting. You may even source at least some of your product from local farms. Ifso, you already get the connection between what’s on the plate and where it comes from, and you may even be looking for ways you can do more.
The slow food movement, which has been gathering steam since Slow Food International’s founding in 1989, embraces those practices and helps encourage its members and others to find new ways to provide good, clean and fair food. In fact, there’s some easy ways to incorporate slow food practices into your restaurant today.
What is Slow Food?
In 1989, Italian activist Carlo Petrini founded what is now Slow Food International to counter the rise of fast food (the same year McDonald’s opened in the center of Rome). Itis a grassroots or-ganization that envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, for those who grow and produce it, and for the planet.
Slow Food reminds us of the importance of local food traditions and encourages us tobe aware of what we eat, how it tastes, where it comes from, who produces it and the ways our food choic-es affect the rest of the world. There are more than 1,500 chapters of Slow Food International, including Slow Food USA.
One of Slow Food International’s biggest events, Terra Madre Salone del Gusto is a biennial in-ternational gastronomy expo and conference to study issues that surround the global food indus-try. The nonprofit has hosted the eventin collaboration with the city of Turin and the Italian Piedmont region since 1996.
Slow Food’s core values, which are the basis for inspiring individuals and communities tochange the world through food that is good, clean and fair for all are:
•Believe that delicious nutrition is a right for everyday life
•Cultivate joyful connections to community and place
•Advocate for diversity in ecosystems and societies
•Protect natural resources for future generations
•Help people and the environment depend on each other
•Promote food that is local, seasonal and sustainably grown
•Build local cooperation and global collaboration while respecting all laws
•Require no prerequisite or credential for participation
•Fight for dignity of labor from field to fork
For three days this past July, Slow Food USA hosted its inaugural Slow Food Nations conference and food festival in Denver. The event hosted more than 305 speakers, 500 international dele-gates from 13 countries, 70 international exhibitors and 155 events to learn, eat and inspire one another around food and the food system.
With the creation of Slow Food Nations, Slow Food USA wants to propel the good, clean and fair food movement forward within the United States. Attendees could watch culinary demon-strations with master chefs who specialized in getting kids into the kitchen and serving the whole animal, nose to tail.
They could venture into the Taste Marketplace to see how the school gardens programs work and taste wines, cheese, charcuterie, crickets and more from across the U.S. and around the world. They could sign up for one of the Slow Food “dinner dates,”once-in-a-lifetime, small-group din-ing experiences, or hear people that care about food speak passionately about the loss of ancient food traditions.
The block parties gave attendees the opportunity to enjoy meals made from ancient grains, blended burgers and food waste gleaned from the festival itself. Taste and educational workshops onagroecology, sustainable seafood and vanishing foodways explored how attendees can incor-porate Slow Food best practices into their everyday lives and where and how they can support the farmers, producers and ranchers who are producing foods that are good for the planet and people.
Some of the key messages taken from the Slow Food Nations event include:
1.Food is the bridge that unites us.We bridge between urban and rural, between Mexico and the USA, and between pleasure and responsibility.
2.We have a plan to unite rural and urban America. Alice Waters staged an extraordinary lunch on the lawn of the State Capitol –an experiential endorsement for free school lunches to support sustainable local farms, uniting urban and rural.
3.Chefs are important actors to cook up a better future. Slow Food Nations was the launch site for US Slow Food Chefs’Alliance and the Slow Food Menu for Change, a global cam-paign to highlight the relationship between food and climate, and the important role of chefs inwriting menus with Slow Food values.
4.We are a global and indigenous movement. From Slow Food Mexico to Slow Food Turtle Island, traditional foods and the people who produce them play a key role.
5.Food justice must be central to our work. Some of the weekend’s most popular and most-talked about dinners and discussions focused on food sovereignty and diversity.
6.We must walk the walk, even in festival operations. From up-cycled lanyards and metal ecocups to Steven Satterfield’s closing meal featuring only food destined for the dumpsters, there are creative and delicious ways to minimize waste.
“We have to come back to the land, and taking care ofitis the most important value of all,”said Alice Waters, vice president of Slow Food International, at the Denver event. “How canwe do that most efficiently? By eating with determination with every bite we take. By supporting those farmers, ranchers, fishermen. By using our buying power. We need to know where to shop and where to eat.
“That’s a theme of Slow Food Nations: we all have a part to play,”she said. “Together, we feel empowered. We’re trying to win people over through pleasure, to feed people and take care ofthem. To bring them back to their senses.”
For more information on next year’s Slow Food Nations event, Slow Food USA or one of its five Georgia chapters, visit slowfoodusa.org.
Ways to Incorporate Slow Best Practices into Your Restaurant
Reduce your food waste
. •Track and analyze the waste in your restaurant, including the food that never leaves the kitch-en and food that is served but uneaten
•Conduct inventory audits frequently to compare purchases against amount of garbage.
•Change your menus –portion sizes and dish popularity –to minimize quantity of leftovers.
•Find ways to repurpose ingredients
•Create food waste rules and get all employees on board
Source local foods as much as possible.
•Source local and seasonal
•Purchase ethical meat and dairy products
•Get to know the farmers who are committed to high levels of environmental stewardship
Get involved with the Slow Food Network.
•Connect with and get involved with a local chapter –there are five here in Georgia
•Help support Slow Food projects in your community and around the world
•Be a responsible consumer and restaurant owner –vote with your fork