Down the Rabbit Hole, Alice in Charlotte

>In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.

Luckily our Alice had the company of some adoring fans from our own celebrity chefs, the [Slow Food community](, and the [public at large]( From September 26th through 27th, Chef Alice Waters visited Charlotte, North Carolina gave talks, went on walks, and ate some of the best seasonal regional culinary fare the Queen City could muster.

North Carolina has lush land and when not suffering serious drought is a land of plenty. We’re overdue getting on the band-wagon of smart food choices for ourselves, our children, and supporting those that feed us. Alice Waters coming to Charlotte and delivering her [ideals]( to our city, our region, is a swift way to draw focus to the importance at hand.

Alice Waters at JWU (by ciordia9)

Chef Waters was brought to Charlotte via the Grateful Growers, Slow Food Charlotte, and Charlotte Shout. Her first stop on her tour was the Johnson and Wales campus where she had a lunch with school officials and Compass Group associates. She gave about a 45 minute [lecture]( speaking of the importance of food in our culture, lack of food culture, obesity in America, and how very few are taking the correct initiatives to change it because of the bottom line. It was a fantastic discussion where she laced a few beautiful provocative statements which went towards the Compass Group (the Compass Group is a mega-multinational-conglomerate with a hiring capacity over 500k, King Kong of the commercial restaurant business).

Alice at Ratcliffe: Speech from above (by ciordia9)

For the evening festivities [Slow Food Charlotte]( held a lottery seating for it’s members at [Ratcliffe on the Green]( There Mark Hibbs, Executive Chef of Ratcliffe, and Owner Zach Goodyear pulled out all the stops for a regional and seasonal Carolina tasting menu. Heirloom gazpacho, [Local salads](, cheeses, [coastal fish](, [stuffed chicken](, [grateful pork](, and a perfect soft [apple dessert]( ending.

Alice at Grateful Growers: Shitake (by ciordia9)

The next day she was greeted by Lell Trogdon of Slow Food Charlotte, and Kathleen Purvis of the Charlotte Observer and taken to [Grateful Growers]( located in Denver, North Carolina. There she met many local sustainable farmers, chefs, and instructors from the area. The farmers of Grateful Growers, Natalie Veres & Cassie Parsons did the full tour explaining their raising of tamworth hogs, breeding program, how they raise chickens (the chics even get a good dose of classical music), and the movement cycles of the coop pens for the betterment of the land and the fowl. They ended their tour at the shitake logs which many Slow Foodies and friends helped last November to plug. They had just bloomed a few days before we got there and they plucked one off a log for Chef Waters. By the looks of it she really enjoyed her time with the farm girls.

Alice at Art Institute: Chef Waters & Artisan Manager Ron Smith (by ciordia9)

With the sights and sounds of a farm in our heads many of us caravaned over to the Art Institute of Charlotte to follow Ms. Waters to her next visit. At the Art Institute she signed books and met more of our local chefs and dignitaries. Then [Chef Joe and Chef Tany](, with the help of their culinary students, produced a magnificent six course meal that left us all wobbly. [House cured charcuterie](, [butternut squash soup](, [goat cheese puff pastry](, [local pork belly & shank](, [beef short-ribs](, and a great [sweet potato cheesecake]( Again all local, all in season, all wonderfully presented.

Alice at Blue: Chefs (by ciordia9)

After a short reprieve there was a reception for Ms. Waters at [Blue]( with Executive Chef Gene Briggs. Alice got to meet some other regional Slow Food chapters and had a bit more face time with chefs of the area. Once again fantastic fare and enjoyable conversation followed her and this was no exception. There wasn’t as much time to relax and socialize as her main lecture at Queens Universities Dana Auditorium was coming up fast.

Alice at Dana (by ciordia9)

When she arrived at Dana I heard that she was amazed at the turnout. Thom Duncan said that Chef Waters was used to speaking to small groups of people and to have 500+ people show up to hear her talk was fantastic. We had groups from all over the eastern seaboard from New York to Florida that wanted to learn about the work Alice has been doing with the [Edible Schoolyard & School Lunch Initiative](

She went through a great speech calling out the education system for a lack of perspective. How were we teaching kids about their own and our planets emergencies. There was an urgency in her tone while she explained how food was culture and that we had for far too long relegated food to maintenance. The growing, cooking, serving, and eating of food is culture. That the more we separate ourselves the more we lose empathy, responsibility, integrated mathematics, design, biology, etc.

Living the fast food lifestyle of fast, cheap, and easy is driving us towards a sort of animalism. We teach by example and what we’re teaching is a dereliction of self and environment. Yet there was redemption in something as simple as a garden. How beautiful and poetic.

There are many things that stand in the way. The current farm bill promotes the food conglomerates getting cheap food, corn mainly, that allows them to make quarter sodas and feeding the population into obesity faster than we can walk. The farm bill should be a [food bill]( and it should support farmers trying to create wholesome products raised through methods which produce a more nutritious, safer, food choice. It doesn’t, so get on the phone! The hidden cost of low cost fast foods is what balloons the health care bill while not at all making incentives for good business. The power of lobbyists.

Her solutions of getting kids graded on lunch, building gardens, bringing culinary ability back to the lunchroom, is a large endeavor with far reaching fantastic ramifications. It’s not insurmountable but it will require dedication and people, parents, teachers, turning on the lights of those above them. Everyone must see this for what it is, what it is doing, and wanting to not participate in the capitalising of Mother Nature via food conglomerates.

She left Charlotte with a standing ovation and chills running up many of our spines. Myself, and Slow Food Charlotte would like to kindly thank Chef Waters for gracing us and exposing us to better thoughts. As we carry this knowledge forward we would like to work with any group out there that is trying to facilitate change. Many activist, pro-humanist groups are working on the same problems and we need to touch base and support one another. Join us at [Slow Food Charlotte Online]( and participate in the discussion. Help move the needle forward.