With its concept, a combination of courage and creativity, the European Food Summit has taken its rightful place among Europe’s best food events, the future editions of which surely should not be missed.
For four days, the European Food Summit transformed Ljubljana into the European culinary capital and placed Slovenia top of the hottest destinations list. The event was met with strong interest by the local as well as foreign professionals, including chefs, reporters, influencers, not to mention the general public and in particular foodies. In the opinion of Ana Roš, who put Slovenia on the international culinary map in 2017, the position of Slovenia has been further improved thanks to the European Food Summit.
Already at the opening press conference, Ana Roš spoke about how during one of her appearances abroad, foreign colleagues, chefs and reporters asked her if they could be part of the European Food Summit and come to Slovenia. The reason behind the huge amount of interest is also Andrea Petrini, named the “God of Food” by foreign media outlets, while in Slovenia he is known as a true culinary impresario. As promised by the organiser Jezeršek Catering joined by partners STO and Ljubljana Tourism, Andrea Petrini, in collaboration with the Slovenian Queenie, Ana Roš, succeeded in attracting to Slovenia the hottest international chefs, making true the promise of a truly remarkable and animated technical conference. Chefs who usually speak through food were taken out of their comfort zones and invited to deliver an actual lecture at Ljubljana Castle, where the obviously excited conference attendees were served lectures on sustainable values and the future of food.
Andrea Petrini: “My mum used to say while walking me to school in the morning, don’t be a fool, try to hang out with kids smarter than you. Basically, that’s we all did during the four days of the first edition of our European Food Summit. We talked, discussed, argued and cut bread and drank (a lot of orange) wine with chefs, scientists, journalists, farmers and winemakers, trying to figure out what could really bind us together. Many topics were explored, and questions answered. How can sustainability be the keyword for more daring and progressive cooking? How to break the bubble the world of gastronomy has been floating in for decades and make cuisine finally rhyme with the contradictions of the society we all live in? The old saying goes, tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are. But chefs should rather ask, “Who am I cooking for?” That’s overtly the proposal of Andoni Luis Aduriz, the mind behind the Mugaritz in the Basque Country, whose talk closed the summit, combining poetics and politics while provoking the minds of the audience to try and expose the possible ways of escaping the strict, oppressive and exploitative rules the Gastronomic Imperialism – instituted by restaurants guides and fine dining centered lists – has forced upon the world of gastronomy.
What a smashing weekend of food and binge drinking we had at the European Food Summit! But wait a minute: Hiša Franko, JB Restavracija, Gostilna pri Lojzetu - Dvorec Zemono, Monstera Bistro, Atelje, Dvor Jezeršek ... is that everybody? No, we are certain that all around Slovenia there are many more hidden gems simply waiting to be exposed to the world. We mustn’t forget one of the most original and unpredictable places of all Slovenia and probably of the world: Skaručna, blending the best locally sourced products, artisanal excellency and theatrical ritualism. A remarkable restaurant that none of the European Food Summit participants will ever be able to forget. It should be named a national treasure!”
Another promise made before the start of the event was that the conference sponsored by the Slovenian Tourist Board would also offer solutions instead of focusing merely on promoting the chefs, their establishments and philanthropy. This promise was realised through inspiring speeches by visiting chefs – the ambassadors of progress, who base their work on sustainability and deliberation. Speakers included Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz, ranked 9th on The World‘s 50 Best Restaurants, two Michelin Stars, Spain), Jordan Kahn (Destroyer and Vespertine, USA), Andreas Caminada (Schloss Schauenstein, ranked 47th on The World‘s 50 Best Restaurants, three Michelin Stars, Switzerland), Christopher Pelé (Le Clarence, two Michelin Stars, France), Esben Holmboe Bang (Maaemo, ranked 35th on The World‘s 50 Best Restaurants, three Michelin Stars, Norway), Leonor Espinosa (Leo Restaurant, Best Female Chef Latin America 2017 and Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, Colombia) and Riccardo Camanini (Lido 84, named Chef of the Year 2017 by Identità Golose, Italy), and media representatives Georges Desrues (Italy), Ivan Brincat (Food and Wine Gazette, Belgium), Joe Warwick (World Restaurant Awards, Great Britain), sustainable food systems researchers Afton Halloran (Independent Consultant on Sustainable Food Systems, Denmark) and Roberto Flore (DTU Skylab – Technical University of Denmark, Denmark), as well as Valter Kramar (Hiša Franko, Hiša Polonka), Anka Lipušček (Mlekarna Planika Dairy), Mateja Gravner (Vinarstvo Gravner) and Lior Kochavy (Open Kitchen).
In short, the idea that the conference was attempting to convey is that we need to understand that sustainability in itself is not a value but instead a direction our actions should be aimed at. Neither is the sustainable approach the objective of culinary ventures, but instead the path to the one goal – a remarkable gastronomic experience. Sustainability should become an element of gastronomy, from the source to the plate. We should fall back on science and its findings, which are becoming increasingly important in gastronomy. This includes both culinary science as well as know-how associated with cooking techniques. The speakers pointed out another amusing paradox that is becoming progressively more important not only in high cuisine but in gastronomy in general. Namely, the opening and closing of borders have a significant impact on the development of gastronomy on a global scale. Here, moderation and taking advantage of the positives of both of the extremes are key. The closing of the borders due to Brexit could result in a gastronomic catastrophe in Great Britain because of the latter’s dependence on fruit and vegetable imports. While at the same time, experts caution about the negatives of globalisation and liberalism, which could begin chipping away at the integrities of culinary identities even in the remotest parts of the world. Instead of culinary imperialism, we should encourage sustainable gastronomy prioritising diversity in palates, approaches and experiences.
That is why it is particularly important that we are aware of the significance of not only Ana Roš, but also of other top chefs and winemakers in Slovenia as well as the sound foundations, as Joe Warwick would put it, and help make Slovenia synonymous with gastronomy. Warwick believes that food and wine are the vital elements of an unforgettable journey and at the same time a reflection of our culture, our tradition. Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, who inspired with unmatched simplicity, was also highly enthusiastic about the quality of Slovenia’s wines produced in such a restricted territory. He also added the importance of continuing to strive for creativity and looking up to successful models, such as his establishment in Basque Country, where chefs despite their rivalries are genuinely aware that they can aid each other’s success.
Without a doubt, the Experience Dinner was an example of creativity which intertwined food with performance arts at the highest level. Creations by Ana Roš (Hiša Franko), Riccardo Camanini (Lido 84) and Luka Košir (Gostišče Grič) once again showcased their unparalleled performance talents while Jezeršek Catering once again succeeded in delivering an animated programme, professional organisation and breath-taking aesthetics.
The creative use of the cable car where Jezeršek Catering and Gostilna Krištof combined food, nature and an unforgettable ambience to create a unique and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, dubbed the Cable Car Dinner, was applauded even by Andoni, who could not disguise his excitement for this “simply brilliant” idea.
Also impressed by the friendliness and diversity of enogastronomy in Slovenia were a dozen foreign media outlet representatives and influencers, who took to exploring east Slovenia in the context of the I Feel Slovenia press tour, joined on Sunday by the visiting conference speakers. After their visit to Hiša Franko for the pre-premiere of the new spring menu, the day concluded with the Cable Car Dinner.
However, the importance of cohesion is also accepted by others participating in the story of the European Food Summit. These include Ljubljana Tourism, the Gourmet Ljubljana brand and Ljubljana’s top chefs, who uncovered their unique dishes accompanied by the best of Slovenian wines at a number of sights and landmarks in Ljubljana in scope of the Gourmet Ljubljana Crawl culinary tour. According to some, it is actually the Gourmet Ljubljana Crawl blending culture, architecture and food that holds the biggest potential. Accentuated by local ingredients at the former fish market – DobraVaga, Jakob Pintar (TaBar) delighted with his potato salad, smoked trout fillet and black garlic. Next, Janez Bratovž (JB Restaurant) put on a fantastic show at Kresija Gallery hosting the exhibition dubbed Spirit of the city, Ljubljana Old Town through the Eyes of Tihomir Pinter, by preparing aubergine dishes, including soup and puree. An illusion was served up by none other than the cooking wizard Chef Jorg Zupan (Atelje), who took the culinary crawl participants by surprise at the Museum of Illusions by preparing ‘cervelle de porc’ stew with ramsons, mussels and homemade bread. At the Town Hall atrium, Gregor Pratneker, creator of large-format oil paintings Into the Nature, and Igor Jagodic (Strelec Restaurant) returned to the roots with an excellent cod with white bean ragù, sauerkraut and Kulen. A medieval dinner of beef consommé, veal shanks, fried fregula with oxtail, roast apple puree with onion and vegetable espuma was served at the Ljubljana Castle walls by Peter Kovač (Maxim). At the last pop-up eatery at Križanke, Mojmir Šiftar (Evergreen) let loose his inner artist by creating a sweet aspic (pumpkin seed oil panna cotta with carrot cream, black garlic gel and vinegar, candied pork tongue and fried pork skin crisp).
Once again, this time with simplistic ingredients of the future and an authentic Slovenian offer, the Open Kitchen pre-premiere succeeded in delivering select dishes by Slovenian restaurants and eateries, complete with top wines, gin, spirits and kraft beer from throughout Slovenia.
New dishes, flavours and faces were the focus of this year’s Gourmet on Snow at Krvavec both on Sunday and Tuesday. On Sunday, a genuine surprise was cooked up by chefs Tadej Gašparin (Pikol), Ago Špacapan (Špacapanova hiša), Luka Gmajner and Marko Magajne (Galerija okusov), Tomi Češek (Zebra Patisseries), Sebastjan Elbl (Restavracija Blejski grad) and Tomaž Bolka (Gostilna Krištof). Tuesday featured Gorazd Potočnik (Sladkozvočje), Sebastijan Kovačič (Hiša Torkla), Tomaž Bevčič (Rizibizi), Urh Kapelar (Skipass Kranjska Gora Restaurant) and Uroš Klinec (Klinec Plešivo) joined by visiting chef Nicola Dinato (Feva Ristorante, one Michelin Star) from Italy who has gone viral thanks to his “fried air” invention. At Krvavec, he prepared his masterpiece using Slovenian Alpine air. However, Tuesday kicked off with the Argeta Exclusive Breakfast hosted by Luka Košir, and later caterers and winemakers took traditionally to the slopes to compete for gold in the Audi Gourmet Cup and once again prove that be it rain or snow, nothing will get in the way of food and fun on snow.
Definitely, the European Food Summit is the newest star on the list of the most important European food events, which will continue to remain the talking point for days, even years to come. We are positive that the event has inspired a number of ideas that will continue into the future, as confirmed by event organiser, Martin Jezeršek. “The European Food Summit is now over and the response has been overwhelming. We haven’t completely recovered from the efforts during this four-day period, but we’re slowly starting to realise that we might have created something truly remarkable and unique. To those suggesting that we might have bitten off more than we could chew, we proved that Slovenians should take a more ambitious stance, and a more confident outlook on the future. And the future starts today when we begin planning the European Food Summit 2020 and how to improve it.”