It was just about ten years ago that my telephone rang, and a voice, speaking perfect English, identified himself as “Patrick Martins, calling from Slow Food in Bra, Italy. I’m so happy that you are interested in joining our organization. And we would love to have you start a Convivium in Cleveland!”
That was the start of my involvement with this organization. Our first gathering, in the Fall of 1999, was a Cheese and Wine tasting at our Cleveland Heights home led by Paul Minnillo and Mario Vitale! There were about 50 people there. When Patrick and his wife, Serena, moved to New York to establish Slow Food USA national office in 2000, folks from that original tasting gathered under at tent at Silver Creek Farm to form our first official event, an Heirloom Tomato Tasting.
These past 10 years have been fascinating, for our group, for our farmers and for our chefs. We have stayed fairly true to our mission. We continue to promote issues of taste. We continue to promote Good, Clean and Fair food. We continue to promote traditional family foods. We certainly promote small family farmers in our region. And we promote local chefs who share the Slow Food mission.
Personally, I was very upset last week when Michael Symon did not win a James Beard Award. After failing to be nominated for an award for Lola as Best New Restaurant, last year, I was distressed. He made it to the finals as Best Chef in the Great Lakes. But he lost. Then, this year, after all of the Iron Chef publicity, I felt that finally, he, would be the first Cleveland Chef EVER, to win. And he did not.
We are in Cleveland. We have so many talented chefs here making marvelous food. People who vote for the Beard awards simply don't come here. One of the primary rules for Beard voters is that you must have eaten the food for whom you vote. So, we need to accept that our talented chefs are not always going to get “The Medal of Beard” awards they deserve. I’d happily give the one that hangs in my guest bathroom (for our Onion Book) to Michael and every other talented chef in this city who works so hard to feed us so well.
We are Cleveland. The best small, ignored city on a Great Lake! Let’s celebrate ourselves. Let’s celebrate our pierogie, our pastry makers, our sausage makers, our farmers’ markets, our pasta maker, the people we have sent to Terra Madre, those we hope to send this year. The Chefs, the Farmers, the Farmstead Cheesemakers, our Bread Bakers & our Educators.
I hope that next year Slow Food Northern Ohio can host a special showcase of Northern Ohio’s artisanal food makers, farmers & chefs. Let us all work toward that… members & friends. A big celebration!
Meanwhile, let’s celebrate the amazing talent around us in places from Siam Café, to Bar Cento, to Moxie, to Flying Fig, to Fire, to Baricelli, to Parallax, to Lola, to Lolita, to Mr. Brisket, to Fahrenheit, Momocho, to Anthe’s at the Lake. And more.
Here’s to the next 10 years!