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Chefs at a crossroads: celebrity stars or humble heroes?

At a time when televised fiction has taken control of the culinary scene, transforming cooks into stars of the small screen, three great European chefs will meet at Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto to discuss what role they should be playing in the world of gastronomy. The conference, “When Chefs Side With Farmers”, brings together the Albanian Altin Prenga and two Frenchmen, Michel Bras and Olivier Roellinger. Three different personalities with differing opinions, but united by a desire to convey respect for their territories, cultures and an awareness of nature, landscape and animal welfare through their daily work in the kitchen.


These paths may run parallel but never cross. Each of the three sees their homeland’s fertile fields as key in keeping their histories and cultures alive. Michel Bras, for example, who has three Michelin stars, grew up in the French region of Aubrac, and expresses all the purest aspects of that territory through his cooking. He lives this role, defining it the “Bras Spirit”: a continuous search for innovative dishes, but also the contemplation of nature, an inexhaustible source of inspiration. This family philosophy has been ingrained since childhood, when he smelled and tasted every corner of Aubrac’s rolling meadows. He says that today, “chefs have become fashionable phenomena. This does not mean that the important issues related to nutrition and food production have been overshadowed, indeed, the media hype of gastronomy has its positive sides. But what is the right balance between fashion and farming? And how can we respond to this trend?”


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Olivier Roellinger, who has spent his in Brittany, responds loud and clear: “As long as television encourages viewers to appreciate the art of cooking and to try their hand in the kitchen, there are no risks. The problem arises when famous chefs abandon their standards of quality, leaving aside the peoples, cultures, traditions and territories behind every product they use.” Roellinger, who combines a passion for spices with the charm of traditional Breton cuisine, strongly defends “purist” cooking, and reminds us that “the role of the chef is to deliver the hard work of producers in the best way possible, ennobling the quality of their products through recipes that respect the personality of the raw materials.” In 2008 he gave up his third Michelin star in order to go back to a more simple, more accessible kitchen, and strives to prioritize “the bond of friendship and mutual respect between the farmers, breeders, fishermen and beekeepers” of his country.


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For his part, Altin Prenga can’t answer much differently: over twelve years spent in Italy he’s learned the value of raw materials, their secrets and their uses, as well as the production techniques that bring them to the kitchen. After returning in Albania to open his restaurant, the Mrizi i Zanave (the name means the shadow of the fairies, and is inspired by a popular work of local literature). Heart and soul of the Albanian section of the Slow Food Chefs’ Alliance, he has conducted an enormous project to recover ancient family recipes and has asked around 300 local farmers to supply his restaurant. “That was the mission that I wanted to accomplish in my country: to revive the best local Albanian cuisines and bring our history back to the table”.


At Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, come and listen to these three protagonists of European gastronomy, and discover how, beyond the spectacle of show cooking, the kitchen is a place to keep our history alive. Book your ticket now!


Gabriella Bruzzone

An Event by
 Città di Torino
 Slow Food
 Regione Piemonte
In collaboration with
With the contribution of
Official Partners
Supporters of the Terra Madre Foundation and Slow Food
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Terra Madre Salone del Gusto
Slow Food Promozione P.Iva 02220020040
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