Ljubljana, 3. 11. 2022
The European Food Summit was never intended to be just another in a long line of gastronomic events. The organizers want an event, which will feature fruitful discussions and sometimes even hold up a mirror, allow people to look at food from a different perspective and dig deeper into where food comes from and what sustainability means today, and above all: to offer some innovative solutions to some of the pressing problems facing our planet today.
The event's main organiser and CEO of Jezeršek Catering, Martin Jezeršek, stressed that the event is becoming even more holistic: "The European Food Summit was originally primarily about gastronomy, but from the very beginning we wanted it to be more than just a gastronomic event. Today, the European Food Summit is looking at nutrition in a holistic way, as gastronomy is only a part of food systems, which are of paramount importance. So this year, the role of curator - alongside Andrea Petrini, a great expert in the world of gastronomy and the man who manages to bring together the biggest names in cooking, has been taken over by Dr Afton Halloran, an expert on sustainable food systems. With her help, the morning part of the symposium will cover topics such as food security, the future of protein, the transition to a sustainable healthy diets etc. The afternoon part, moderated by Andrea Petrini, will again be mainly dedicated to gastronomy."
So what makes the European Food Summit different from other events? The answer is summed up by Slovenia's greatest chef and co-founder of the event, Ana Roš, a renowned speaker and participant in many international gastronomic festivals and symposia in recent years: "I believe that it is chefs who can be role models in people's everyday lives, who can change the way we think about what is good to eat, what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. And it is the European Food Summit that gives us this platform and questions our future when it comes to eating. It is a professional event and it could hardly be more professional." She added that there are few or too few conferences like this in the world and that this events helps to put Slovenia on the gastronomic map where it wants to be or where it belongs.
The three-day programme of the European Food Summit will be made up of exceptional events, not only in Ljubljana, but in its surroundings as well, and for foreign journalists also elsewhere in Slovenia. Ljubljana will feature the Gourmet Ljubljana Crawl, the Symposium and the Experience Dinner, while Ljubljana Soul Chefs will take place in the restaurants around ljubljana. Sunday trips will take journalists to other areas as well. The European Food Summit will therefore have an exceptional experience of a wide variety of gastronomic delights, from restaurants to producers, growers and farmers, genuine contact with people, authenticity, sincerity and, above all, a wealth of new knowledge. The many positive reactions from foreign journalists and other guests at the European Food Summit confirm that the event is heading in the right direction. The importance of the project for raising the visibility of the destination is also recognised by the partners of the event, including the Slovenian Tourist Board and Ljubljana Tourism, which have supported the event from the very beginning.
As Barbara Zmrzlikar, Head of Research and Development at the Slovenian Tourist Board, pointed out, the project is an important contribution to strengthening the visibility and reputation of Slovenia as a gastronomic destination characterised by sustainability and high quality, as well as a destination committed to responsible and inclusive development, also in the field of gastronomy: "As this year's European Food Summit highlights, it is a sustainable attitude to food that unites us in Slovenia in a vision of what the future of the food should look like for a brighter tomorrow. The development path we have set for gastronomy in Slovenia can help to achieve a more sustainable, more responsible and more inclusive future. Gastronomy is one of the key tourism products of Slovenian tourism, making an important contribution to the objective of creating higher added value, deseasonalisation, diversification of tourism flows and sustainability. Last year, the Slovenian Tourist Board added a new category, restaurant and catering providers, to the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism and introduced the Slovenia Green Cuisine label. Today, 46 catering providers have been awarded the label, which distinguishes high quality, sustainability, uniqueness and creativity, and their offer is based on locally and seasonally produced food. And that is exactly the gastronomic offer that we will be presenting to around 30 international media representatives on four Feel Slovenia day trips." She also pointed out that the STB is working to eliminate single-use plastics from catering and accommodation providers, a commitment which more than 100 providers have already signed. She recalled that top gastronomic operators are also highlighted by the most influential international gastronomic guides such as Michelin and Gault&Millau.
As a driving force for progress and development, the European Food Summit also contributes significantly to the visibility and reputation of Ljubljana as the gastronomic capital of Europe, where much has changed since the event's first edition. Katarina Marinovič, external associate in the field of tourism product development at Ljubljana Tourism, points out that Ljubljana's culinary renaissance is a process that has been observed by all tourism stakeholders in the Slovenian capital in recent years; while the new post-pandemic reality has had an impact on this process, Ljubljana's culinary offer has shown flexibility and ingenuity in this respect as well: "We have noticed that Ljubljana's culinary offer has not been diminished in any way over the years; on the contrary, it has been refreshed, more imaginative and diversified. In recent years, we have witnessed important milestones; not least the number of Michelin-starred restaurants has increased, many Ljubljana chefs have added new outlets to their portfolio, and during the Covid closures responded with innovative takeaways or solutions that have brought the culinary offer into people's homes. It is true, however, that local and sustainable has been an imperative of the vision of Ljubljana's tourism and catering industry for the past few years, and so this strategy was the easiest for the caterers to adapt to; they were not dependent on global supply chains, they deepened local collaborations, and their manageable size meant they were flexible." She also pointed out that events such as the European Food Summit have an important impact on awareness-raising and information and for the very process of reflecting and thinking about the whole tourism and hospitality story: outstanding speakers bring inspiration and new ideas, always refocusing and addressing the right topics, which then resonate with the general and professional public. Most importantly, the reflections from the summit have a concrete epilogue and resonate in the positive development of the offer itself.
Sustainability and innovative approaches to food and food production have been a central theme of the European Food Summit from the outset. When asked where they see the greatest potential for sustainable approaches across Slovenia and the importance of partnerships, Rok Capl, Acting Director of SPIRIT Slovenia, which has newly joined the project as a partner this year, says: "SPIRIT Slovenia has been actively involved in the introduction of sustainable business models in Slovenian companies for many years. As part of the Recovery and Resilience Plan, our efforts are also focused on supporting circular innovation in companies in the food chain or in the transition to circular and sustainable food systems. And as these guidelines - sustainability, innovative approaches to food and food production - are also followed by the European Food Summit, we have decided to participate in the event, which this year bears the title Food for future's good. We believe that research and innovation are key to fostering the transition towards sustainable, healthy and inclusive food systems. Slovenia is characterised by its rich culinary diversity and strong food processing industry. Exceptional local production, world-class products, a wealth of know-how, modern technology and rigorous supervision, exceptional creativity and innovation, and sustainable individuals and companies are key strengths that give us outstanding gastronomic visibility in the world. The fact is that Slovenians have always been an innovative nation, including in the food sector, where we focus on innovation and creativity and at the same time respect our traditions. I am convinced that by further integrating sustainable practices into our operations, we will all contribute to improving our lives, health and environment."
The European Food Summit as such is not just a one-off event, but aims to leave a mark and a 'food for thought' in the true sense of the word. Thus, the event organizers will use this year's European Food Summit to launch the 'Common-Sensitarian' Diet Manifesto, a bit along the lines of the New Nordic Culinary Manifesto from 2004, which proved to play such an important role in the development of the Nordic culinary phenomenon. And it almost seems that the 'Common-Sensitarian' Diet Manifesto is even more ambitious, going beyond the region: it aims to stimulate debate and awareness about eating in general. Martin Jezeršek
says of the initiative: "The fact is that many diets look at nutrition from one angle, but at the same time we know that nutrition is extremely complex, and food systems are multidisciplinary. Even organizers of the European Food Symposium find it difficult to understand, let alone how to make good decisions. No diet tells us to respect the food producer, the chef, all the people involved in the food chain, the importance of mental state (we have a lot of eating disorders), it does not deal with the fact that people prefer to look at their phones when they eat, and the list goes on and on. We have realised that common sense is missing from everyday dietary choices. Understanding, knowledge and education are key. We have worked on the Manifesto by inviting experts from different disciplines. And the result is a document that speaks to the choices we as decision-makers need to make to eat food that is good for the planet, respectful and responsible to all people, good for our personal well-being and good for our bodies."
He sees the Manifesto is a vision, a simple document that sets out a vision for eating in the future: "We want the manifesto to spark a discussion and a movement. Food has become an ideology. We don't just see it as energy for life, we identify with it as a reflection of the values of the individual. So: Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are."
As such, the European Food Summit is not only important in terms of promoting and supporting sustainable practices. It is a European event, and Slovenia is part of Europe, a world power in terms of setting norms. The European Food Summit takes place in Slovenia and also sets norms in terms of sustainability, which is extremely important. This puts Slovenia at the centre, also when it comes to the development of critical thinking in the area of the future of food.