Slow Food Family Dinner with Carlo Petrini: Athens to Atlanta Part III
I’m a little quirky; I know that. My quirkiness factor shines through when I talk about my passions. Three of my favorite things are fresh produce, folk music, and local celebrity chefs. Yes, it’s an odd assortment but those are some of my loves. Well, Sunday evening I got to be part of an event that involved all of the above favorites. Can you believe it? What a lucky girl I am!
On Sunday night, Slow Food Atlanta put on this incredible ‘family dinner’ at Watershed Restaurant in Decatur. Slow Food founder, Carlo Petrini, was the guest of honor and other important ‘Slow Food’ folks attended. This event was a great way to conclude the Georgia Organics weekend and brought many amazing people from Athens back to Atlanta. Even a couple of speakers that I heard at the Georgia Organics Conference attended the dinner, including Michel Nischan of Wholesome Wave Foundation and Diane Harris of the CDC.
Not only was this an amazing culinary event, but the money raised from the dinner went towards Slow Food’s Terra Madre Foundation. What is Terra Madre? This international foundation works to “bring together different players in the food chain who together support sustainable agriculture, fishing, and breeding with the goal of preserving taste and biodiversity.” I love the emphasis put on taste and biodiversity. For example, it’s good to have many varieties of apples and potatoes, not just russet and golden delicious. Agricultural variety is beneficial to all of us because it encourages local farming, develops our taste buds, and allows us to enjoy better and healthier foods, packed with vitamins and tasty goodness. If we support small, local farmers, we’ll be ‘preserving taste and biodiversity.’ Petrini and Terra Madre believe “eating is an agricultural act and producing is a gastronomic act,” therefore we need to be followers of both farming and flavor.
How did I get to be at this incredible event? Unfortunately I was not a paying customer, but I participated as a volunteer server and greeter for the night, allowing me to enjoy the festivities and be a part of the action. This was my first experience waiting tables and let me just say, I have a whole new appreciation for the food service industry and all of the work involved in getting a plate of food in front of the diner. Watershed’s kitchen is pretty small (at least it seemed small to me) and there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen, trying to complete their dishes and get food out to the tables. The menu for this meal was created by the chefs, and each course represented a meal from that chef’s childhood. One of the things I enjoy most about cooking is the memories that taste can trigger. Each of these chefs poured their heart and stories into their dishes and every plate looked absolutely gorgeous.
If you’re like me and love all things foodie, you’re asking yourself, “who were the celebrity chefs?” The list is long, with an extensive number of James Beard nominees in the group. So while I was already star struck from shaking hands with Carlo Petrini when he walked in the door, being in the same kitchen with all of these celebs just about put me over the top. I could care less about Johnny Depp or any other movie star, but chefs fascinate me and I’m awed by their talents. Chefs for this family dinner included Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene, Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill, Steven Satterfield of Miller Union, Kevin Ouzts of The Spotted Trotter, Billy Allin of Cakes & Ale, Scott Peacock of Watershed, and Cathy Conway of Avalon Catering. Ridiculous, right? To have all of these guys and their cooking entourages in the same kitchen, with me carrying out their incredible food, I felt like I’d died and gone to food heaven. I didn’t even get to eat the food, but I didn’t mind at all.
I was so busy once the guests arrived that I did not get to take photos of the actual event or the beautiful food. I’ve included some photos of Watershed and the room before the family dinner. Now just visualize it packed with people, amazingly presented food, chefs wandering the room talking to the diners, and us servers in our white button downs. Highlights of the meal were the Kevin Gillespie’s ‘One Dish Hog Dinner’ served in individual cassoulet dishes, and Steven Satterfield’s roasted oysters, Savannah red rice, served family style with Kevin Ouztz’ biscuits. Here’s a look at the program and menu so you can get a better picture of the event since there are no photos to document it.
Woodford Reserve Mint Julep
Prepared by: Mark Williams, Slow Food Bluegrass
Daniel Morrison, Watershed
NV Bodegas Matilde Totus Tuus Brut,
Red Brick Blonde Ale;
Scott Peacock, Watershed
Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls
2005 Domaine du Viking Sec Tendre,
Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene
One Dish Hog Dinner
2004 Kluge Albemarle “Simply Red” Bordeaux Blend;
Kevin Gillespie, Woodfire Grill
Roasted Oysters, Savannah Red Rice
with Andouille Sausage & Shrimp
Green Salad and Angel Biscuits
2006 Domaine de la Chevalerie ‘les Galichets,’
Steven Satterfield, Miller Union
Kevin Ouzts, The Spotted Trotter
Applesauce Cake with
Calvados-Vanilla Cream and Caramel
Cafe Campesino Coffee
Cathy Conway, Avalon Catering
Each chef is listed with the item he/she created and presented to the diners for this special meal of memories and good food. You can also click on this link to see the entire program, read about each chef’s culinary inspiration for his dish and learn the evening’s recipes. You’ll notice that a lot of these dishes are entirely gluten free! Doesn’t it make your mouth water just looking at it?I also loved that Charlottesville’s Kluge wine was represented on the menu.
The evening’s program was not just about food. Slow Food Atlanta’s, Judith Winfrey, opened the evening with a beautiful welcome, followed by a performance by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls, one of the owners of Watershed, hence rounding out the evening for me by adding some folk music to the event. Saliers sang two songs, including the crowd pleaser, ‘Galileo.’ It was a lovely way to start the evening. To hear her play the guitar and sing, just her, in such an intimate setting was incredible.
When Carlo Petrini spoke to conclude the night’s program. he addressed world wide agricultural issues and the importance of supporting farmers in all countries. Petrini believes in the importance of connecting and collaborating with all parts of the food system, including chefs, farmers, and consumers. As we listened to Petrini’s words, it was incredible on to be surrounded by incredible chefs and farmers as we celebrated slow food and mother earth. When Petrini talks about ‘the pleasures of the table’ and enjoying cultures through food, you feel like you’re there with him, tasting the cuisine and enjoying the people he’s describing. Petrini has an incredible ability captivate an audience, speak to our hearts, and allow us to feel his passion. These are rare talents for public speakers in general, but Petrini has to speak through a translator and you still feel his love, energy and enthusiasm for good tasting food.
Many people worked hard and were involved to pull off this incredible evening and I’m so glad I got to play a (minor) role in the event. Was I exhausted afterwards? Yes. Do I ever want to be a full time server? Never. Did I love every second of this event that combined my favorites: local food, celebrity chefs, and folk music? Absolutely.