Ljubljana, 9. 11. 2022
The European Food Summit is an event that, alongside boutique gems, innovative individuals and all the others pushing the boundaries in the world of tourism, gastronomy and entrepreneurship, consolidates Slovenia's position on the global gastronomic map and sets new milestones in the field of sustainable food systems. This year, the event took place from 5 to 7 November and hosted a number of outstanding speakers from Slovenia and abroad, as well as local and global media.
The unforgettable three-day programme of the European Food Summit consisted of outstanding events in and around Ljubljana (Gourmet Ljubljana Crawl and Ljubljana Soul Chefs, Symposium and Experience Dinner) and across Slovenia (Fell Slovenia day trips). Everyone who experienced it - either as an ambassador of their remarkable and inspiring story or as a guest - was extremely impressed by what Slovenia has to offer.
At Saturday's unforgettable culinary exploration of the capital city of Ljubljana, the Gourmet Ljubljana Crawl, the participants were served by the recognisable ladies of the JRE Slovenia restaurants, under the patronage of the event's partner, Ljubljana Tourism. At the unique Oblak Miha Florist Gallery and the Kapela Hall, Sara Kavčič (Gostilna pri Lojzetu, Michelin-starred restaurant) welcomed the guests with an amuse-bouche. Patrizia Bevčič (Rizibizi, Michelin recommendation) served the amuse-bouche at the Bankarium and Nina Čarman (Gostilna Danilo) at the DobraVaga Gallery. Barbara Košir (Grič, Michelin star and Michelin green star) spoiled the guests with her main course in the beautiful surroundings of the City Hall, and Martina Breznik (Hiša Raduha) at the exceptional Ljubljana City Museum. Sabina Repovž (Gostilna Repovž, BIB Gourmand and Michelin Green Star) took the guests into the sweet world of illusions with her dessert served at the House of Illusions. The House of Good Wines, Koželj, provided the selected wine accompaniments to the inspiring dishes. The crawl finished at the Maxi Passage, where a special culinary-art performance inspired by the uniqueness of women, in collaboration with the culinary masters of Jezeršek Catering, was provided by artist and illustrator Mitja Bokun, together with a cup of Barcaffe coffee.
On Saturday evening, in partnership with Ljubljana Tourism, the main happening (Ljubljana Soul Chefs) moved to the outskirts of Ljubljana, where inspiring family stories were brought to the fore: Mojca Mihovec with her family (Gostilna Mihovec), Luka Košir with his family (Grič, Michelin star and Michelin green star) and Luka Jezeršek with his family (Dvor Jezeršek, Michelin recommendation) delighted guests by serving them traditional Slovenian dishes, including the Slovenian potica and homemade bread from the bread oven, as well as sausages and other exceptional local dishes.
On Sunday, 29 journalists from 15 different countries, writing for the world's most influential media such as Falstaff, El Pais, Der Standard, Food and Travel, BBC Food Programme and others, discovered unique boutique gastronomy and entrepreneurship stories. The Feel Slovenia press trips were co-hosted and organised by the Slovenian Tourist Board (STB) and based on sustainable and circular principles and a sincere connection between local producers and top chefs, creating a better tomorrow for all. They learned about four different Slovenian regions, their characteristics and the culinary stories of the chefs and local producers. The journey to the south-west of Slovenia started with a visit to Špacapanova Hiša (recommended by Michelin), where the journalists visited their wine cellar and a vinegar production facility, in addition to tasting traditional Karst dishes. They continued on to the boutique Golden Ring Cheese Factory and finished the day with dinner at the Faladur Restaurant. The second group stopped for lunch at the new Lalu Bistro in Celje, where Marko Pavčnik served them delicious dishes made with local ingredients that have been present in the area since the Middle Ages. In this spirit, the culinary experience continued at the Old Castle of Celje, where, in addition to dessert, the journalists were treated to a count's reception prepared by the Celeia Institute. At Kocbek, an oil mill with a rich tradition of pumpkin oil processing, they tasted oils and, on the recommendation of the event partner SPIRIT Slovenia, listened to a presentation of the sustainable entrepreneurial stories of the Kokol Wine House and Zavod Jeej. The third group first visited Hiša Raduha in Savinja Valley, where young herbalists (Magical herbs of the Savinja Valley, Slovenia Unique Experience) also presented themselves, and ended with an exquisite dinner at Vila Planinka in Jezersko. The fourth group visited the wine-growing region of Posavje and, in cooperation with KŠTM Sevnica, tasted local wines at the Sevnica Castle and got to know local salami and cheese producers. Afterwards, they were given a presentation of the Pavlič fish farm at Rajhenburg Castle, tasted Kuney chocolates and sampled sparkling wines from their Sparkling Wines Bar (Peninoteka). They finished with a presentation of organic salami production by David Lesar (BioSing) and dinner by Jure Tomič (Debeluh, recommended by Michelin).
Outstanding guest speakers at Monday's expert symposium were invited by the curators, sustainable food systems expert Dr Afton Halloran and world gastronomy expert Andrea Petrini, the organiser of the event, Jezeršek Catering, and the partners of the event, the STB and SPIRIT Slovenia. Inspiring speakers shared their thoughts and stories with more than 200 participants. The rich content of the morning part of the symposium covered the topic of sustainable food systems, while the afternoon part was dedicated to gastronomy.
State Secretary Matevž Frangež from the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology was the first to address the participants. He welcomed the initiative to address sustainability as a key theme within the European Food Summit. He assured that the Government of the Republic of Slovenia takes sustainable change seriously and will ensure that it is part of its future policy.
The Director of the Slovenian Tourist Board, MSc. Maja Pak, pointed out that Slovenian tourism destinations and providers have been systematically taking steps towards sustainability for a long time, the number of participants in the Green Scheme of Slovenian Tourism has been steadily increasing, and Slovenia's success in the field of sustainable tourism has been noted by many global media outlets, which rank Slovenia and its tourism offer among the most sustainable in the world.
Martin Jezeršek, the organiser and the Managing Director of Jezeršek Catering, presented The 'Common-Sensitarian' Diet Manifesto. The manifesto was drafted by a wide range of experts, not only in the field of gastronomy, but also in the social sciences, agronomy, psychology and business. The New Common Sense Food Culture addresses not only the individual needs of the consumer, but our society as a whole. It is not extreme and is based on common sense, while incorporating many aspects, including environmental ones. Martin Jezeršek encouraged participants to join the movement and sign the manifesto to actively contribute to change.
Dr Afton Halloran, the curator of the morning session, challenged the participants to think about what they can contribute to the sustainability. She has been involved in the development of similar manifestos in the past and believes that they can play an important role in our fight against climate change. However, she stressed that social and monetary inequalities, which have increased rather than decreased over time, are causing further hardship for people, especially in developing countries.
The question of why the transition to a sustainable diet is so difficult was addressed by Marleen Onwezen. She explained how harmful meat is to the environment. Just one 100 gram piece of ground beef creates a carbon footprint equivalent to driving 60 kilometres. Change is needed, the desire to act is there, but there is still a huge gap between what people think it needs to be done and what ends up being done. She stressed that the knowledge we use when discussing plant-based diets has a significant impact on their acceptance, so this is something to think about.
The morning round-table discussion was chaired by Prof. Dr Adriana Rejc Buhovac, who, along with her guests, explored the ways in which we can become a 'Common-Sensitarian Diet' Society. Chef Ana Roš (Hiša Franko) explained that chefs today should take advantage of their role as "rock stars" in the eyes of the public, remain the change they want to see in the world, and call on the public to do the same. Andrea Petrini challenged her statement, questioning whether it was true that they were so free in their decision-making process and that, philosophically speaking, freedom was relative, as we all depend on something.
British journalist and writer Dan Saladino took us to Tanzania to explain how the diet of the Hadza, who are still hunter-gatherers, could be part of the solution to our future challenges. He wrote a book about this ancient tribe that uses honey as its main source of food and boasts an extremely varied diet, in which he argued that the modern culinary world is creating monocultures that are putting us at risk. Thinking along Hadza lines and respecting diversity could help because, according to Saladin, diversity is not a sales risk, but a path to greater resilience and a solution to potential famines and global catastrophes.
Marjana Peterman from the Slovenian Consumers' Association provided valuable insights into consumer behaviour in the transition to sustainability. She pointed out that our society has already made some important steps, also in the area of food processing, but there are of course still many opportunities for optimisation, taking into account the power and voice of consumers.
Tilen Travnik from Juicy Marbles took on the challenging task of convincing the spectators that plant-based meat can play a role in the transition towards a sustainable society. He made the bold claim that processed food is not necessarily always bad. The key question is how it is processed, and therein lie the challenges. The focus should not be on eliminating processed food altogether, but on making it real.
In the first afternoon round-table discussion, Tokyo-based writer Melinda Joe discussed their experiences of cultural appropriation with chefs Mory Sack (MoSuke, France) and Santiago Lastra (KOL, Mexico). Both emigrated abroad to start their careers respectfully, and both faced similar challenges. Sacko says today that no matter the pressures, his story can be an inspiration that you can achieve a lot if you put your mind to it. Lastra agreed, adding that in another country you will always be a foreigner and need to keep learning and discovering, but that should not deter people from their goals.
In the afternoon session of the symposium, curator Andrea Petrini challenged world-renowned chefs to step out of their comfort zone. Thus, Alberto Landgraf (Oteque, Brazil) was given the task of exploring the ideas of Susan Sontag, a remarkable American writer and philosopher who argues that the interpretation of works of art deprives the individual of the freedom of perception. He mapped this onto the culinary world, which is also awash with storytelling, and pointed out that this takes away the guest's freedom to interpret individual dishes. He stressed that, although interpretation of information affects the purity of the message, it is sometimes necessary to better understand and place it in the context of time and place.
Chef Rodolfo Guzman (Boragó, Chile) took up the challenge of explaining his story with the Rolling Stones' song Not your beast of burden. He drew parallels with his own career, using the lyrics of the legendary songs to highlight the burden that successful chefs carry as ambassadors for their country, while also telling his remarkable business story that has taken him from the brink of bankruptcy to the very top of the world's culinary world.
Adahlia Cole raised an intriguing topic of the role of professional female companions in tourism and hospitality. As a former professional companion and now a writer, she spoke frankly about how important a part of this industry these two overlooked segments actually are, as they have power in the choice of restaurants and consequently have a significant influence on the consumption decisions of their customers. She concluded her speech by appealing to restaurants to treat companions with respect, as they can make an important contribution to their success.
The importance of music in high-end restaurants was presented by Christof Ellinghaus, owner of the most well-known German indie music label City Slang and of the Kordo restaurant in Berlin. He stressed that a poor choice of music can spoil the whole dining experience and that more attention needs to be paid to this segment.
The afternoon closing roundtable brought together three outstanding natural wine producers from Italy and Slovenia, Mateja Gravner, Chiara de Iulis Pepe and Laura Avogrado Di Collobiano. All represent the pinnacle of the industry and all are women. The moderator, Olivier Joyard, challenged them by asking whether the time has come for the natural wine movement to become mainstream and simply be called wine. Mateja Gravner agreed, pointing out that the natural winemaking process has evolved so much in recent years that it has become common, saying that natural wines age just like other wines. Nevertheless, advice on when to drink wine is still as relevant for natural wines as for others - it is a question of personal taste. Chiara de Iulis Pepe went on to explain that their winery has aged their wines much longer than what would have been considered appropriate for natural wines and that they were a great success. Laura Avogadro Di Collobiano even pointed out that, with the right soil composition, wines can age for several decades. On the other hand, she said that she understands that some wines need to be young and served fruity, and that this is perfectly fine.
For the grand finale of the symposium, Ana Roš had an interesting conversation with the Slovenian Prime Minister, Dr Robert Golob. The Prime Minister assured the participants that the Slovenian Government is serious about food sustainability and will soon take important measures on the subject. But not only from a production point of view, but also from a health and environmental point of view. He stressed the importance of reducing meat production, which has a devastating impact on the environment, and carbon dioxide emissions: "This does not mean that we need to exclude meat from our diet, but rather that we do not overconsume it. It is better to eat seasonal and locally produced plant-based food in order to be responsible to the planet and to have sustainable eating habits. This is also good for our health." He is personally convinced that self-sufficiency and respect for the environment should be the guiding principles of Slovenian agricultural policy in the future.
The European Food Summit ended with a unique spectacle, the Experience Dinner, which was shrouded in a veil of secrecy until the very last moment. The new Michelin star winners Igor Jagodic (Restaurant Strelec), Filip Matjaž (Restaurant COB) and David Žefran (Restaurant Milka) served their masterpieces at the L56 Hall.