Monday, February 28, 2005

Slow Food in Indy


The second annual Slow Food chef-grower gathering, where Indy’s premier chefs and local producers and growers meet to establish relationships and plan for the coming year, will be held at Elements Restaurant, 425 North Alabama Street in Indianapolis, Monday, February 28th, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. Chef Greg Hardesty is hosting the event and Slow Food Indy is the sponsor. Last years meeting was a great success with 25 chefs and 15 grower-producers in attendance.

OK, I admit it. I don't get it. I just don't understand the whole slow food concept. I say "concept" and not "movement" since it's debatable that slow food has or ever will have much of a following. Like the whole raw food idea, when you dig past the snappy concept name you find that there's nothing particularly new or notable about it. Slow food is just another flavor of organic. While I can see the appeal of organic farming and food for restaurants, what is the appeal of slow?

If you go to the website at Slow Food Indy, you'll find lots of text on "stewardship" of the land and food and "enjoyment", slowing down of the restaurant process to enjoy the meal. Last I checked, this quality is already the hall mark of a terrific restaurant. We used to call it "unhurried" instead of slow, slow service not usually being high on my list of requests. Does slow mean the chef gets to take their time? While that's fine, I think it's really up to the chef as to whether or not they want to slow down from 120 to 75 on a busy weekend night. As a customer, I want my food cooked properly, the dish executed to the chef's vision, garnished with sauces and flavors that the chef recommends I try to truly enjoy and understand the flavors he or she has composed. What I don't want is glop cooked in a crock pot or simmered for hours in a back kitchen stove and what I really don't want is "slow" to be an excuse for the chef to keep me waiting for hours while he "handcrafts" each dish with his personal artistry.

I guess what I'm missing is the connection between slow foods and organic. It's all well and good for the movement to want the term "slow" to communicate care of the land and growth of the produce from local small farms, but it's a marketing failure to connect those positive concepts to the negativity of slow. From the press release:

There is a growing awareness and demand from customers for quality food products whose origin is known to be safe and have the fresh flavor that can only come from local small farms. Elements, R Bistro, and the new Hilton 134 West Restaurant all have seasonal menus featuring local food. Buying local and preparing fresh establishes a cuisine as unique and helps the local farm economy to flourish and prosper.

I'm glad local chefs are looking at these options, but I think we may need to find something less trendy to call it. Slow food as a concept just doesn't work for me.

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