Relais & Châteaux and Slow Food first joined forces two years ago in an initiative called Food for Change, organizing events to raise awareness of the planetary consequences of our food choices. Meet four chefs taking part in this delicious revolution.
What we eat is responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. So when you’re a chef, the impact of each ingredient takes on great importance. Ever since Relais & Châteaux presented its Vision to UNESCO in 2014, all the Association’s members have been committed to preserving the environment and their local heritage.
Michael Tusk, Quince, California
“Our mission as chefs is to educate our customers, our staff, and our friends and family. The obvious action to take is to only serve organically or biodynamically grown foods.” The Fresh Run Farm, less than an hour from the restaurant, provides most of the produce, while Peter, the farmer, “takes care of the Californian Slow Food Ark of Taste products: Marrowfat beans, Elephant Heart plums,
Spitzenberg, Hauer Pippin, and Sebastopol Gravenstein apples. He works with the team as a cook!” On the Food for Change menu: raw and slightly dried or “demi-sec” cherokee purple tomatoeswith a light seaweed broth, wasabi and basil oil and finally a granita of cucumber, celery and horseradish. For the Indian Blood Peaches, we poach them in Meyer Lemon leaf syrup and then serve the with lemon leaf pastry cream and Fresh Run Honey & Bee Pollen Gelato – since the work of bees is vital to biodiversity.
David Alexander, Glenapp Castle, Scotland
“To cook is to educate.” For this member of the Scottish Slow Food Alliance, it’s not just about being in the kitchens: You also must dialogue with your growers, customers, and staff members, especially the youngest among them, “because protecting biodiversity is in their hands.” Defending seasonal and local products in an environmentally friendly way also entails teaching novice cooks the right choices to make: serving more reasonable quantities, rejecting wasteful practices, and setting higher prices that also requires reinventing the cuisine. Salt from the Isle of Skye, wild deer hunted around the chateau, Loch Ryan oysters, sought after since the 17th century: the entire Scottish terroir contributes to the cause.
Rame Gowda, Shreyas Retreat, India
Atithi Devo Bhava: This mantra, which means “serving the guest as the Divine,” is the foundation of the hospitality practiced here. Rame Gowda’s cooking is fresh, light, and nourishing, prepared in accordance with the principles of ayurveda, in keeping with the seasons of the earth and the rhythms of the human body. Slow Food’s core values – good, clean, and fair for all – have long been a reality at this establishment: Everything is grown in an organic vegetable garden, respecting both people and nature. Among the tasty treasures to try during Food for Change are the wax gourd, with a high quotient of what yogic science calls prana, or vital energy; moringa, a super-food with delicious seed pods, leaves, and flowers; and millet, a grain that is particularly easy to digest. The secularity of foodstuffs becomes spiritual, nourishing the human soul and the planet.
Cédric Béchade, L'Auberge Basque, France
Eight Slow Food Sentinelles (Ark of Taste products): In France, the Basque Country has the greatest number of these noble ingredients to protect. This is why Cédric Béchade makes sure he works only with local producers who provide him with endless inspiration: “Here, we have a Food for Change menu all year long! In the space of twelve years, we’ve seen the renaissance of many species, like Basque Grand Roux corn, which disappeared in the 19th century and is now grown by about fifteen farmers.” The menu no longer features signature dishes: “The chef is Mother Nature. The high season for Basque cuisine used to be April through October. But we have more than piperade to offer: We can prepare dishes that are 100% local, even in winter, with Macaye chestnuts, Kriaxera duck, Banka trout. The joy of seasonality is seeing the ingredient again after those many months apart. Because you had time to miss it.”