Since Relais & Châteaux proclaimed its culturally - and environmentally - focused Vision to UNESCO in 2014, members have all committed to acting responsibly as part of the food system, which is more important than ever in the context of the global health crisis.
Now in a four-year partnership with Slow Food International, Relais & Châteaux chefs are particularly in-tune with their terroir – especially with regard to the Ark of Taste, a Slow Food catalogue listing endangered, heirloom ingredients that the chefs champion in their Food for Change menus or initiatives throughout the year. Here four chefs showcase an Ark product and in turn advocate for a better world.
Régis Marcon, L'Auberge des Cimes, France
“At our property, Food for Change is a year-round effort! I’ve supported Slow Food since it first began, with several visits to Terra Madre, as well as the Slow Cheese festival in Bra, Italy. Lots of vegetables, much less meat – it’s an exciting new chapter for cooks to write. All year long, we have several vegetarian dishes on the menu and we’ve often found that we need to help customers gradually reduce the amount of animal protein they eat before they give it up completely. To cook vegetables better, you also have to learn to prepare them on their own, because it’s all about balance. Among our region’s Slow Food Ark of Taste ingredients, I like to use Salers cheese, but also Planèze blonde peas from Saint Flour, which we currently serve in a soup, with a touch of ginger. When we talk about producers, I prefer to say that we encourage them and, most of all, listen to them, rather than using the word “support,” which doesn’t reflect the importance of our interactions. Because, for instance, Moroccan argan oil, another Slow Food Ark of Taste ingredient, perfectly brings out the flavor of our local mushrooms. So eating local, with an added touch from other lands, shows that this approach is in no way about having a closed mind.”
Gaetano Trovato, Arnolfo Ristorante, Italy
“After experiencing Terra Madre Salone del Gusto (Slow Food’s biennial summit in Turin) several times, I’m a firm believer in what Slow Food does, and I incorporate a lot of Ark of Taste ingredients in my cooking. Eating well means respecting producers, ecosystems, and everyone’s health. Over time, we’ve managed to source 90% of our ingredients from Tuscany, and the remaining 10% don’t cross the Italian border. All our fruits and vegetables are harvested three miles from our property, the fish come from our coasts, our poultry is raised by Laura Peri, and our Chianina beef by Simone Fracassi – we all share the same vision, objectives, and philosophy. We’ve been serving a 100%-vegetarian menu for a decade already and are also working on zero waste, like with a dish made with sea bass, wild tomatoes, and tarragon. All the Taste Ambassadors support one another in keeping the culinary identities and traditions of their respective regions alive.”
Krista Garcia, Hotel Wailea, Hawaii
“I’ve lived on the island for six years and recently joined Hawaii’s Slow Food Convivium to show my commitment to local producers and help them become more widely known. Food security is a crucial issue here and we have to encourage biodiversity in local production, because we import a lot of things. Still, we’ve managed to serve meals that are 100% Hawaiian, all the way down to the salt and olive oil! I’ve discovered many very inspiring ingredients here, including ulu. The season for this breadfruit variety is starting right now – it’s one of the Slow Food Ark of Taste ingredients and can be prepared a great many ways, depending on its ripeness. When it’s still young and firm, you can roast it, make ulu chips and savor the mild, artichoke-like taste. When it’s really ripe, it’s sweet and more flavorful and I use it in pastries. I also use a lot of taro and axis deer in my cooking, and both are part of this island’s history: As a chef, I’m a bridge between the past and the present. For example, cooking kalo leaves in coconut milk before adding them to a risotto brings together the traditions of yesteryear and the tastes of today.”
Gareth Stevenson, Palé Hall, United Kingdom
“Everything we do as chefs can really impact our customers’ consumption: By simmering pieces of meat, for instance, we encourage better use of all parts of the animal. This is a vital trend that started about ten years ago, the effects of which we can see today! Among the ingredients we like to feature are Gorwydd Caerphilly cheese – boasting a texture that’s both crumbly and creamy. This cheese, popular among Welsh miners, almost vanished from production during World War II. Made from raw milk, Gorwydd Caerphilly is produced in Somerset in an artisanal way. We also like to highlight the Balwen Welsh Mountain lamb, which became a rare breed and almost disappeared in the 1950s. Dark in color and with white legs, its size is small but rich in flavor, thanks to the ideal distribution of fat, overseen by our producer David Ogilvie. A bit reminiscent of game, the meat goes equally well with peas, gnocchi, and black garlic as it does with eggplant baba ganoush and navy beans!”