Set your clocks back 50 years and taste food as it should be
Saturday and Sunday are the last two days to visit La Route du Goût (Route of Taste), organised by the association Bio Chef Global Spirit, headed by star chef Paolo Sari. The organic food festival, the first of its kind worldwide, “committed and engaged in actions to motivate others to preserve our future food resources and our planet”, has the support of Société des Bains de Mers (SBM), which sees this as a genuine sustainable project celebrating organic gastronomy, ecology, health, youth and sport for charity.
SBM also owns the Monte Carlo Beach, where Mr Sari oversees Elsa, the world’s first and only 100% organic restaurant to receive a Michelin star, thanks to his ability to elevate organic to a gastronomic level.
“The day after the Michelin star announcement,” Mr Sari tells me over an organic cola, at the Monte Carlo Beach hotel, “I went to buy a newspaper and saw the story. I realised I’d accomplished something that had never been done before.”
And what an achievement. When Mr Sari arrived, with his limited French, at Monte Carlo Beach in 2011, this was not part of his plan.
“We started from zero,” he assures me. “The association was represented by farmers not capable of producing what we wanted. Now we net 150 tonnes of fruit and vegetable in six months, all locally-grown.”
Much like flower growers in Grasse who have exclusive partnerships with the major perfume houses like Dior and, since September when it launched its first perfume in 70 years, Louis Vuitton, Mr Sari has developed similar agreements with fifteen organically-certified gardens (two more will be operational by the end of this year). Producers from Cavillon, Grasse, Menton and Vintimille will have a guaranteed market if the quality is good. “These are partnerships. I need a product from the region, picked at 6am, at the restaurant by 9 am and on a plate by noon. This is the perfect test.”
Mr Sari points out that he’s invested in the local economy – “not in South Africa, for example, where something is not in season” – and that like a corporation, he has control because there’s no middlemen. “It’s the best product at best price.”
This arrangement eliminates transport and billing and leave producers to just produce, maybe exclusively two or three items, and know it’s already sold. “I’ll buy everything – 10 tonnes of zucchini, 10,000 artichokes – if it’s the best quality and with organic certification.”
Following the vision of HSH Prince Albert II, Monaco has become the symbol of welfare, the environment and renewable energy. “Monaco is the perfect place to be 100% organic,” Mr Sari says. “It’s a corner between Italy and France, and the French-Italian agriculture and gastronomy share long histories. Also, we have a microclimate that allows lemon and cabbage, and avocado and mango to grow in the same soil. And there are plenty of producers. About 150 years ago, ninety percent of Monaco’s land, which included Roquebrune, was agriculture.”
The major institutions of the Principality, including the SBM, play a unifying role in offering all their support to this second edition of La Route de la Goût, which encourages organic processes that favour preserving culinary heritage, local customs and cultures respecting nature and biodiversity. Since Wednesday, the public has been invited to the port to discover this four-day organic fair. On the programme: numerous educational activities on renewable energy, cooking demonstrations and chef-led classes on the theme of healthy and organic food. The festival also addresses younger people by organising tennis competitions at the Monte-Carlo Country Club.
Saturday, in addition to the organic market with producers and winemakers from 10 am to 6 pm in Quai Antoine 1er, the afternoon, from 2-5 pm, will be dedicated to “artisans of the sea”. A parade consisting of 10 Riva boats will be followed by a presentation and exceptional 100% organic cocktail dinner, orchestrated by Mr Sari, who will be accompanied by Chefs of Relais & Châteaux and the Société des Bains de Mer.
On both Saturday and Sunday at 11 am, visitors can learn about agriculture and ecologic solutions of the future with Moses.Bio.
The proceeds from Saturday’s dinner will be donated to the Bio Chef Global Spirit to help complete the construction of a hotel school committed to sustainable development in Madagascar. In parallel, the association will ensure technical and financial support to develop environmentally friendly practices and organic farming in Madagascar.
Mr Sari adds that he’s not trying to convert people, just informing them of the proven health benefits of eating food without pesticides and returning to our roots.
“Humanity has destroyed nature over the last 40 years taking without giving anything back, this will impact especially the next generations. I challenge the people of Monaco to make the Principality 100% green and insist that restaurants become more organic.”
When Paolo Sari started as chef at Elsa five years ago, people used to come to the hotel for the spectacular pool. “Now they come for the food,” he says with a slight but proud smile.