Real Food Real Joel – Tampa’s Slow Food Movement

May 2, 2012 | By | 5 Replies More

I had the great opportunity to attend the Real Food Real Joel farm-to-table event at the Roosevelt 2.0 in Ybor City on April 19th. Chipotle and the Tampa Urban Food Forum invited me to the event (normal tickets were at least $100 and it was sold out as well) which starred farming celebrity Joel Salatin as a guest speaker and was supported by at least 40 local organizations and businesses. I wasn’t quite sure why Chipotle was involved with this event, but learned much about Chipotle and about the local farming and growing Slow Food movement in Tampa Bay. Chipotle chose to send me because of my status as a USF student and the event organizers were actually live-streaming the event to promote the event to students as well.

A gift from Chipotle which is currently growing in my home. Chipotle sponsored an essay contest on real food and the top essays were compiled into the booklet below the gift.

I will admit I was a little nervous about how the food would taste. Taking on this event was a jump into a new territory of food for me and I am happy to say that all the food severed was phenomenal! I never knew fresh farm grown food could taste as crazy good as it did. Local chefs and farmers came together to create a beautiful product at this dinner and Joel Salatin is truly an eloquent speaker as well. He has many fans locally in Tampa and a painting drawn at the Roosevelt 2.0 of Joel earlier in the evening sold at $950 for auction to benefit the local farming community in Tampa Bay.

The artist a few minutes before the event as he worked to complete this work of Joel Salatin.

Dinner was served before Joel took the stage. The first course started us with two salads.

This salad was a warm-up and fresh as can be – packed with goat cheese. I loved the cheese and ate it up before the first creation came.

This salad consisted of Sezchuan miso eggplant, grilled bok choy, chili picked radish, sake anise soaked oranges, and bottagra. Chef Ferrel Alvarez from Cafe Dufrain was the master behind this creation. I have to say I have never tasted such amazing oranges (maybe it is time to start soaking my oranges in sake?). Everything was great and a great introduction for the next course.

Cafe Dufrain on Urbanspoon

Now this course simply swept my feet away. A Vietnamese style porchetta with chile-cinnamon butternut squash, lemongrass-salt, pepper peaches, and coriander fingerling salad. Greg Baker from The Refinery presented this dish…man I have never tasted pork so tender and so packed with flavor with what appeared to be simple. By looking at it you just cannot grasp how great this course was. I cannot even give it justice in words, I just hope I can someday experience this dish again.

The Refinery on Urbanspoon

This final course was the perfect finale to the meal. It was created by Byron Gabel from the Grand Hyatt Resort. It is a blueberry goatcheese flaugnarde with sweet basil ice cream and crispy tuille. What was really interesting was when I took the first bite of the exterior, I wasn’t sure what was inside this dessert. The inner layer then hits the palate just right and provided a flawless ending to this great meal I experienced at Roosevelt 2.0 for Real Food Real Joel. Before Joel had even taken the stand to speak, I was already ready to hear more about the Slow Food movement and local food after experiencing these great dishes that were all made using local farmers, food, and ingredients.

Oystercatchers on Urbanspoon

The head of the Suncoast Food Alliance opened the floor for Joel Salatin. What was really great about this event was learning about the local push for locally-grown products and one fact relayed during this speaking event was that “Every dollar spent within the community is turned over 7 times”. During these tough times for Tampa Bay after the real estate crash, we have to start brainstorming new ways to keep the community thriving to help makeup for the growth we have lost as a community. We watched a short video produced by Chipotle with the beat of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” set to the discussions of the evening called “Back to the Start” – you can watch it here.

After the video, Joel Salatin took the stage and began his list of things he hopes to see. He discussed the issues with the way our current food industry runs and his hopes for a better food industry and for a better appreciation by the people who decide what they will consume. Joel rejects the notion that some people say he is an elitist for promoting local food and farming that can in some cases cost more, but he brought up the excellent point that people should value what they put into their bodies.

He told us about how his pig farm became involved with Chipotle as Chipotle has made steps to move in the direction of slow food and to support local farming. Chipotle expected to use more than 10 million pounds of produce from local farms in 2011. Chipotle is still in the process of trying to find the best profitable way to make this work, but they are trying their best as a national restaurant chain to own up to providing their customers with quality items and have worked with Joel in the past and found that customers reacted extremely well to the local farming products and demanded more (just as I did earlier tonight). I agree with Joel that it is great to at least see Chipotle trying, while many of their competitors won’t even consider exploring the option.

Joel shared some of his beliefs including that he believes it is better to eat food first available before 1900 to avoid many of food issues you find today and his belief that farmers should be more appreciated by our society than is currently the case. It’s true – as food has become mass produced by large corporations – farming has lost its focus in society. Joel went through the rest of his list and I really thought about how much little information I knew about this prior to this event.

The farm-to-table was very educational, but I wanted to know more and I think for more people to get involved it is important to branch out of the group and reach a bigger audience. I was happy to pickup a copy of The Local Dirt which was started by Ferrel Alvarez from Cafe Dufrain with that mission. Browsing through the pages you can learn all about your local farms and this food movement. I think local publications like this can be a great way to connect with people. While it is true that we do live in a fast-paced society, I think what is most important is just to be informed – so we can at least have the choice in making the decision that is part of our values. You can read the magazine online for free so I would invite anyway interested in this post to check it out and tell some friends and family about it. I thank all these great people involved in this evening for making me more aware and for hosting such a great event.

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Category: Food Events

Comments (5)

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  1. Lisa says:

    Thanks for posting such a great review of the evening! I was glad to be part of this event and couldn’t be happier that attention is being given to sustainable farming and real food. I’m glad you are thinking more about where your food comes from and the part you play as a consumer. We do vote with our dollars, so remember to choose food that comes from a source you can trust!

  2. It was a pleasure to work with all the awesome folks that made this event possible. It wasn’t the easiest task and sometimes frustrating in the planning stages but with all the positive energy pushing it ahead, it was a piece of “cheesecake”. I will pass along to the “girlz” how you enjoyed their cheese! My mouth was reeling in delight all evening with the tasty morsels that kept appearing! The chefs was phenomenal!

    Thank you for your kind words! Folks like you keep us farmers proud of what we do!

    Pam

  3. It was a pleasure to work with all the awesome folks that made this event possible. It wasn’t the easiest task and sometimes frustrating in the planning stages but with all the positive energy pushing it ahead, it was a piece of “cheesecake”. I will pass along to the “girlz” how you enjoyed their cheese! My mouth was reeling in delight all evening with the tasty morsels that kept appearing! The chefs were phenomenal!

    Thank you for your kind words! Folks like you keep us farmers proud of what we do!

    Pam

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