Starweek Magazine

Slow Food is growing…fast!

Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Where are the chefs?  Well, Slow Food advocates Gaita Fores, Robby Goco and Claude Tayag and Chele Gonzalez were there. These chefs passionately advocate and practice the Slow Food principles: good, clean and fair food.

This was at the recent Slow Food Summit at the World Food Expo. While many others were at the culinary competitions, a few select chefs were at the summit to tell their stories. And to tell the public that it is possible to be part of the movement while carrying on with their business.

“I get it,” says an attendee. That video of Slow Food’s Paolo Di Croce was a good start for the event, which had a hundred people totally immersed in the Slow Food idea.

Ige Ramos, food designer, author and culinary historian, put Filipino cuisine in perspective. “We share our food traditions with many parts of Asia,” he says. It’s not reinventing Pinoy cuisine. It is understanding how our ancestors grew food, how they fished and how they also used animal meat in their cooking.

Claude Tayag had a take on growing or just creatively using backyard plants and taking them to the table. A new idea: urban agriculture can be done in the smallest of places like one’s window sill or backyard.

Gejo Jimenez of Malipayon Farms grows 99 kinds of lettuce and herbs, all because the chefs like Gaita Fores buys whatever he grows and experiments on using them in new dishes.

Nicolo Aberasturi of Down To Earth farms spoke for native breeds of cows, which are hardier and more resistant to disease. He raises local cattle in Bukidnon and shows chefs how to make beef burgers, beef jerky and the newest “Bombetta-like” smoked bacon snack.

Christian Schmidradner of Artesmar showed us what good, chilled sustainable fish is all about. There was sashimi for everyone, even more to take home, while a huge 50-kilo tuna was displayed for everyone to appreciate.

Yes, the movement is growing – and not slowly but quite rapidly. Slow Food Manila organized the Slow Food Summit to get more consumers and chefs interested in learning about the principles of the global grassroots movement. Last year, there was just a table of advocates. This year, there were ten tables full. Next year it is hoped that the room will be filled to capacity.

Gaita, a veteran of the bi-annual Salone del Gusto e Terra Madre held in Turin, Italy every other year, serves kilawin with cornik and cadena de amor flowers. The mix of textures feels like a party in your mouth. And it’s all Filipino. Gaita showed us a video of how she connects to the farmers for eggs, vegetables and edible flowers, too.

Chef Robby Goco of Green Pastures talked about changing menus monthly because of seasonality of ingredients. He likes to create new dishes depending on what’s available in the market.

“It used to be that we could only find powdered dried basil and I could not make pesto with that,” he says. “So, farmers started to grow basil, then arugula and now we have fresh ingredients for all our creations.”

Yes, the movement is growing. We now have free range chicken from Pamora, sustainable fish from Artesmar, grass-fed beef from Down To Earth and pastured pork too.

The organic vegetables are grown by Malipayon Farms, ECHOfarms and Down To Earth as well.

There are small producers doing artisanal carabao milk ice cream like Caramilk, Dairy Farm Manila’s butter from milk of grass-fed cows, chocolate and nut spreads from Theo and Philo, even local liqueur made from calamansi, dalandan, mango and coffee.  There was hot chocolate from Nana Meng’s and banana heart burgers from ECHOstore.

So, what again is Slow Food? And why are chefs connecting to it and through it? Because chefs need farmers and farmers need chefs. Chefs give new meaning to what farmers grow. Besides the usual cooking methods, Ifugao’s tinawon rice is now in Chef Chele’s risotto and seafood paella.

Farmers need to know what chefs will cook and what we as consumers will eat. Then we all become co-producers. We all become aware that batwan, the souring ingredient for kansi and kadios, is seasonal and harvested only from December to May. So, must we eat kansi during the rainy season? Maybe not, as there will be no fresh batwan. It’s that simple. Respect the seasons when you cook. And when you dine.

Chefs need to see what’s in the market and to know what’s in season. Then they design their menu according to what farmers can produce, not what farmers should.

Slow Food is about establishing connections with rice farmers like Mayette Paragas, Sister Julie Garwinen and Vicky Garcia, who bring down the heirloom varieties from up North so chefs like Chele, Gaita and Robby can use them in paella, risotto or simple steamed rice.

And Slow Food is what Claude Tayag has been doing except he calls it his local cuisine, but he has practiced buying local, buying seasonal and growing his own vegetables at Bale Dutung and Downtown 1956 in Pampanga.

Thanks to chefs like them, Manila is seeing the light and the Slow Food movement is indeed growing – and growing fast.












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