Slow Food blog

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th July 2014
Fast Life & Slow Food.  A blog by Marco Carboni  Everything starts at home, as usual. The starchy, sweet smell of made-ten-minutes-ago pasta is conquering the room like a barbaric invasion and freshly picked sage from the garden is doing the rest. Butter. And of course, the parmesan. Always the bloody parmesan. Growing up in Italy or better in Emilia-Romagna, this has been my Sunday ritual for more than 20 years, with tortelloni, tortellini, tagliatelle, lasagne, passatelli and any kind of pasta never heard of before, being accurately crafted by my inexhaustible mum each weekend for my family gathering (and joy). When I then moved to London seven years ago, cooking was the natural fit to my need of bringing back these essential emotions. Making my first steps in a professional kitchen, burning, dropping, chopping (my nail off!) and running all over the place filled my early days as a chef, or should I say, as a cook. A few years later I was working in one of the best restaurants in the world, a three-Michelin-starred stressful and manic, yet magnificently exciting environment. Slow-Food-market   But I wanted to do more, and the “good” alone without the “clean and fair” felt to me like a Sunday roast without the gravy, so six months ago I joined Slow Food UK as its Chef Alliance Coordinator, where I got the chance to manage a group of now more than 120 chefs (and growing), hungry to revolutionise our modern food system by using Forgotten Foods and suggesting a local, sustainable supply of ingredients. Food in Britain has changed. Even a few years ago it was difficult for me to find anything that wasn’t processed enough to be cautiously left on the shelf and Borough Market was perhaps one of the few places where I could find amazing, real food. Organisations such as Slow Food have played a huge role in educating people about the principles of good, clean and fair food and I haven’t regretted joining them to help in this important cause. Often we don’t understand how chefs are vital in this process, as much or maybe even more than supermarkets, as they bring to the table the “best” expectation we have about food, the latest trends, the ultimate food experience – and the way in which they do it radically changes people’s opinion and inspires other chefs and food businesses around the country to make their changes and to move towards a more sustainable approach. Chefs have the power and the responsibility to change our perception of food: going beyond the mere recipe and serving food that is not only good but also sustainable and clean is a challenge that British chefs have undertaken, in my opinion, quite successfully. Middle-White-Pig Can we do better though? We must not forget that choosing the right supplier, keeping a seasonal menu and informing customers of what they are eating will change many people’s experience and expectations in a positive way and will lead us to a better understanding of how our food system should and must work in order to protect our heritage. Every little helps. The aim of our Chef Alliance programme is precisely this: to raise people’s awareness throughout  Chefs' choices in their restaurants, so that in few years having “Middle White Pig with Formby Asparagus and Martock Beans” will sound normal, and not as a fancy new way to name the latest pork belly dish. I was really happy to see how engaged our Chefs became for Slow Food Week 2014 (this year from the 1st to the 8th June), our annual celebration of the Slow Food values. Watkins-Hartnett Forgotten Foods menus, local events, workshops and tastings, talks and Slow Food dinners were all part of this year’s schedule, with our entire Slow Food network engaging together to share what has been done and to show that preserving biodiversity not only is necessary, but also fun. Our Chef Alliance spokesperson Richard Corrigan hosted a fantastic gathering of fellow chefs at Corrigan’s Mayfair, with Emily Watkins, Angela Hartnett, Atul Kochhar, Shaun Hill, Ross Lewis and Valentine Warner cooking a stunning  seven courses all prepared with different Forgotten Foods. What a night! The dining room was filled with excitement and all the chefs were helping in the kitchen to achieve what was really one of the best Slow Food dinners to date. Walthamstow Yellow Cress?  Yes, a Forgotten Food from London! How cool. At L’Autre Pied, Tom Aikens prepared a fantastic starter using the last batch of the season, followed by Tom Van Zeller, Francesco Mazzei and Andy McFadden’s dishes featuring other amazing Forgotten Foods (never heard of the heavenly Colwick Cheese?) which all blew away the dining crowd. smoked-eel Sam Harris hosted an intimate chef’s table at Zucca in Bermondsey, while many other chefs throughout the country, from Scotland down to Jersey, supported our cause and celebrated Slow Food Week with wonderful events. I could go on for much longer with the whole schedule and still I wouldn’t be able to express enough how important our Chefs are to us and how much Slow Food Week was a celebration of all things Slow. I think it is about finding what we can do individually at our restaurant, hotel, catering company, bistro, café, home. After all, we can all indeed play a role in promoting a better way to eat. My mother definitely did her part.     Marco Carboni  Of Italian heritage, Marco grew up in the countryside of Emilia-Romagna where Marco CarboniParmigiano Reggiano and pasta fresca were the “ordinary” meals available.  After moving to London, driving a 20-year-old van to go play the guitar with his own band, Marco started to discover the gastronomy wonders of the capital and established himself in restaurants such as Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana. After achieving the Wine Diploma with AIS in Italy, Marco began working as a Sommelier for Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver in London before a brief career as a freelance Food Photographer. Marco then decided to merge all of his passions, and started working for Slow Food UK, of which he has been the Chef Alliance Co-Ordinator since the beginning of 2014. He also hosts a Supper Club with his girlfriend, called “I Love Your Hat,” and is a keen sourdough baker who likes to experiment and make a mess in the kitchen and considers himself a “gastronaut” as opposed to a foodie.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th July 2014

Slow Food blog