Carlo Petrini has been described as that rarest of creatures, a successful revolutionary. Petrini is the founder and guiding light of the global Slow Food Movement, which he brought into being 27 years ago following a protest against the opening of the first McDonald’s in Italy.
It is thanks to his continued and concerted efforts that a growing movement of people believe that we can reduce both hunger and obesity while improving the quality of food, the life of farmers and the impact of agriculture on the environment and health along with real cooking, taste and pleasure.
Around the globe Petrini has become a man to be listened to on all of these subjects.
Recently he was made Special Ambassador Zero Hunger for Europe by The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a UN agency that leads international efforts to defeat global hunger by 2030.
Petrini will be coming to South Africa from August 11 to 17 where he will be hosted by the Slow Food Johannesburg and Cape Town Convivia who this year made the pledge to create 10 000 food gardens in South Africa which so impressed Petrini that he decided to visit the country and visit some of these gardens.
Since 2010 Slow Food has been creating a network of gardens to save Africa’s extraordinary biodiversity. Its dream: creating 10 000 gardens in African schools and villages with the aim of guaranteeing good, clean and fair food for communities and making them aware of the value of their land. This means not only raising awareness among a young generation about the importance of food biodiversity and access to healthy, fresh food, but also training a network of leaders aware of the value of their land and their culture who can serve as protagonists for change and the continent’s future.
The SA Convivium of Slow Food took it upon themselves to achieve this number in South Africa alone.
Slow Food has set three main strategic objectives on which the organisation is going to work in the following years: 10 000 products in the Ark of Taste, 10 000 Gardens in Africa and 10 000 Convivia and Food Communities. These goals represent the Slow Food commitment to protect and save biodiversity and to build an African network of young leaders. The goals also aim to strengthen the Slow Food and Terra Madre network globally in order to let people from all over the world to have access to good, fair and clean food.
“I am looking forward to coming to South Africa. Slow Food believes that the slow trend could feed the South Africa population, since it encourages the local production of food, particularly in ways that also protects local heritages, including knowledge and artisanal skills passed down through generations,” he continues.
Says Brian Dick, chairman of the Johannesburg Slow Food chapter: “It is an honour, not only for us at Slow Food, but for South Africa that Carlo is visiting this country. During his trip he will be meeting a number of high-profile people who we believe can play a part in the achievement of Slow Food objectives. But it is equally important to meet the producers – those who farm the land, who care for the animals and who create the unique South African products we love, and of course the chefs who take our ingredients and transform them into memorable experiences.”
Petrini will be visiting both Gauteng and the Western Cape and visiting a food garden in Soweto.
Biography of Carlo Petrini
Born in 1949 in Bra, northern Italy, Carlo Petrini is a journalist, author and advocate for a sustainable food system and has been working since the 1980’s to promote eco-gastronomy. On December 9, 1989 in Paris, the Slow Food Manifesto was signed by more than 20 delegations from around the world, and Petrini was elected president, an office he still holds today.
Thanks to his far-sighted vision, Petrini has played a decisive role in the development of Slow Food, inventing and promoting its projects, which have now acquired great international visibility.
Among his many achievements is the creation of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo (near Bra), the first academic institution to offer an interdisciplinary approach to food studies.
He was also behind the creation of Terra Madre, a network of more than 2400 food communities that brings together small-scale farmers, fishers, artisans, chefs, young people, academics and experts from more than 160 countries.
Carlo Petrini travels around the world taking part in conferences, meeting communities of the Terra Madre network, holding lectures in renowned universities including Ivy League institutions, and has been invited to take part in discussions on food sustainability and agriculture within EU institutions and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
The most recent prestigious award is the appointment he received in May 2016, from the President of FAO, Graziano De Silva, as a Special Ambassador to Zero Hunger for Europe, the initiative to increase public awareness on the need to improve agriculture in Europe and ensure a sustainable food supply chain.
Petrini’s contributions in the field of the environment and sustainable development have also been recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme, which named him co-winner of the 2013 Champion of the Earth Award for “Inspiration and Action”.
His skills as a communicator and the originality and importance of his message, implemented through Slow Food projects around the world, have aroused the interest of international opinion leaders and media. In 2004 he was named a ‘European Hero’ by Time magazine, and in January 2008 he was the only Italian to appear in the list of ‘50 People Who Could Save the World’ drawn up by the prestigious British newspaper The Guardian.
As a journalist he regularly contributes to La Repubblica, one of Italy’s largest daily newspapers, discussing themes such as sustainable development, culture, gastronomy, and the relationship between food and the environment.
Prior to La Repubblica, Petrini wrote for the national newspapers Il Manifesto and La Stampa. All revenue from journalistic activities is reinvested in Slow Food.
Carlo Petrini is also the author of various books: The Case for Taste (2001); Slow Food Revolution (2005); Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should be Good, Clean and Fair (2007, translated into English, French, Spanish, German, Polish, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean from the Italian original); Terra Madre (2011, translated into English, French and German).
In his latest book, Cibo e libertà. Slow Food: storie di gastronomia per la liberazione (2013), currently available only in Italian, Petrini recounts a series of gastronomic stories collected during his long experience as a traveler, which demonstrate how food can become an instrument for liberation from hunger, malnutrition and the nowadays omnipresent phenomenon of the “homogenisation of thought”.
In 2015, Petrini wrote the reading guide to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si.
Petrini’s contribution to the discussion on the sustainability of food and agriculture in relationship to gastronomy has been acknowledged by the academic world.
In 2003, the Istituto Universitario Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples conferred on him an honorary degree in Cultural Anthropology, and in May 2006 he received an honorary degree in Human Letters from the University of New Hampshire (US) for his achievements as a “revolutionary precursor [and] founder of the University of Gastronomic Sciences”.
Petrini’s work was further recognised by the University of Palermo in 2008, when he was awarded an honorary degree in Agricultural Sciences and Technologies.
Slow Food is a global, grassroots organisation, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.
Since its beginnings, Slow Food has grown into a global movement involving millions of people in over 160 countries, working to ensure everyone has access to good, clean and fair food. Slow Food believes food is tied to many other aspects of life, including culture, politics, agriculture and the environment. Through our food choices we can collectively influence how food is cultivated, produced and distributed, and as a result bring about great change.
Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.
Our approach is based on a concept of food that is defined by three interconnected principles: good, clean and fair.
GOOD: quality, flavoursome and healthy food
CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers