Since 2014, Relais & Châteaux has been striving to make a better world through cuisine and hospitality in a manifesto presented to UNESCO. One of the association’s 20 commitments is “to preserve the diversity of cuisines and hospitality in this world so that future generations can know and share in their richness.”
Each year since 2016, Relais & Châteaux chefs have been participating in the Slow Food movement to promote good, clean, and fair food for all while combating climate change and protecting biodiversity. Since 2021, they have successfully nominated, as an association, over one hundred near-extinct foods to Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.
#FoodforChange Campaign 2023
Last month and this month, Relais & Châteaux members have been raising awareness of local cheeses, wines, and other fermented products. More than 800 chefs and 580 independent properties located in 65 countries, Relais & Châteaux harnesses strength in numbers to demonstrate that another direction is possible: one that points towards regenerative agriculture, respectful of the Five Freedoms of animal welfare and time-honored preservation methods, while protecting taste and diversity of flavor profiles. Therefore, Relais & Châteaux has shared Slow Food guidelines on cheese and wine within the network.
Participating to the #FoodforChange campaign, the Relais & Châteaux chefs remind us that it is urgent to bring more attention to our food supply chain, which is responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions according to the FAO.
Wisely choosing dairy products and cheeses means considering animal welfare, responsibly using the land, and applying savoir faire that helps protect the diversity of culinary heritage globally. As cheese, also wine and other fermented products are not just a question of climate: their production requires a complete range of processes that have been adapted throughout history, generation after generation.
According to Mauro Colagreco, Vice President, Chefs of Relais & Châteaux, “To give everyone the right to ‘good, clean and fair food for all,’ no product should be left behind. Cheeses, dairy products, wines, and other traditional fermented products such as beer and saké reflect the diversity of ancestral practices, unique flavor profiles, and various landscapes that the Relais & Châteaux properties care about protecting.”
Edward Mukiibi, President of Slow Food, states: “According to Slow Food, agroecology plays a crucial role in addressing the climate crisis. We are faced with biodiversity loss in soil and breeds due to food and dairy production, social and economic challenges like the depopulation of rural and mountainous areas, insufficient support for pastoralists, and difficulties in generational turnover. After these years of collaboration with Relais & Châteaux, we continue to work successfully together to promote a sustainable production and consumption of food, to take a further step in the protection of biodiversity and of the planet.”
#FoodforChange Campaign Videos
To illustrate this campaign, Relais & Châteaux has chosen five emblematic properties to showcase traditional products and production methods:
- At Relais & Châteaux L’Auberge Basque, located in the Basque region of France, Chef Cédric Béchade dives into the relationship he shares—one built on a common philosophy—with shepherd Jean-Bernard Maïtia. Not only is Jean-Bernard’s ancestral cheesemaking process in mountain pastures threatened with extinction, but so is the black-headed Manech species that he breeds. By working together, the two are protecting the culinary heritage of a slow cheese for future generations.
- In Bulgaria, at the Relais & Châteaux Zornitza Family Estate, the Stoychev family radiates a simple way of life that follows the rhythm of nature. They recognize the magic of time and create a multitude of seasonal products on property including cow, sheep and goat cheeses (ranging from ultra-fresh to matured) that guests can enjoy during their memorable stay.
- Among the renowned Willamette Valley vineyards of Oregon in the United States, Relais & Châteaux Tributary Hotel and its fine dining restaurant ōkta, showcase a progressive culinary experience that unearths the flavors of the seasons and reflects the harvest from the restaurant’s nearby regenerative farm. Located on the farm is the restaurant’s larder, where Executive Chef Matthew Lightner works closely with Larder Chef Larry Nguyen to preserve, transform and reimagine local products using both ancient and modern fermentation techniques, both decreasing food waste and creating surprising flavors on your plate.
- In Austria, two sisters share a holistic vision of gastronomy. On the one hand, Barbara Eselböck at Relais & Châteaux Taubenkobel with her husband and chef Alain Weissgerber, and on the other her sister and brother-in-law, Stephanie and Eduard Tscheppe, who biodynamically cultivate the natural wine Gut Oggau. While running separate businesses, the families support each other and amplify a regenerative approach.
- In South Africa, global warming poses many challenges for historic vineyards such as at the Relais & Châteaux Delaire Graff Estate. Morné Vrey, Winemaker of the estate, explains to us how responsible viticulture can deal with these problems thanks to better water consumption management.
A Collaborative Campaign
To support this campaign, hundreds of Relais & Châteaux properties throughout the world are showcasing cheeses, wines, and fermented beverages that fulfil Slow Food criteria, whether they are produced by artisans, by small-scale suppliers, or directly at the properties themselves.