Starting tomorrow, food educators, advocates and enthusiasts are congregating in the Mile High for the biggest food event Denver has ever seen. Slow Food Nations, a three day festival and academic conference, is hitting the city with a big lineup of events that range from a day long delegation, to a free food festival. But since Slow Food is a relatively new concept in Denver, and Slow Food Nations even less familiar, we thought we’d answer some of the basic questions before we head into the weekend. Emily Smith, a Slow Food representative, spoke with 303 Magazine to give us the lowdown.

303: First off, what is Slow Food?

Emily Smith: Slow Food is a global, grassroots organization, founded in 1989 by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists 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 inspire individuals and communities to change the world through food that is good, clean and fair for all. There are over 150 chapters in the USA. 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 bring about great change.

Photos by Brittany Werges

303: Why did this event come to Denver?

ES: Richard McCarthy, director of Slow Food USA said, “We selected Denver because it is a great example of an inland town that uses food to accelerate reinvention, create collaborations between urban and rural, and get different folks sitting around the same table. The growth of craft beer, urban gardens, public markets and the most collaborative restaurant scene in America makes Denver the ideal host. The open sky will incite open discussion and possibilities for the future of food. Join us!“

303: What is Slow Food Nations about? 

ES: Inspired by Slow Food International’s biennial Terra Madre gathering in Turin, Italy, Slow Food Nations is a festival to taste and explore a world of good, clean and fair food for all. Slow Food leaders from around the globe will participate in an all-day delegate summit on Friday, including small group discussions, focused working groups and a lunch by Alice Waters that will explore school lunch as an academic subject. Delegates will then serve as hosts and speakers during the weekend festival. Entrance to the festival is free and includes a taste marketplace with 100 exhibitors and producers, an outdoor culinary stage, gardening and cooking activities for kids and families, heritage food tastings, author talks and many more events. Carlo Petrini, Alice Waters, Ron Finley, Simran Sethi, Jack Johnson, Hosea Rosenberg and Alon Shaya are just a few of the many food movement leaders joining the festival.

303: How will it be different than other food events in Denver?

ES: Unlike many food events, the weekend will combine not only the energy of a street food festival, but also the rigor of an academic conference, and the inspiration of a cultural exchange – with Slow Food chapters from across the US and delegations/exhibitions from more than 20 countries. Enjoy dozens of interactive workshops, delicious tastings, local tours, educational talks and plenty of meals and parties. Slow Food Nations connects farmers and families, leaders and eaters to share our stories and shape the future of food.

303: What are the not-to-miss-events this weekend?

ES: Be sure to check out the free Taste Marketplace on Saturday and Sunday at Larimer Square which will feature 100 exhibitors, international pavilions and local producers, and don’t miss the “Love the Earth, Defend the Future” opening address on the Main Stage at Larimer Square at 10 a.m., with Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini and food movement leaders Alice Waters, Ron Finley, Michel Nischan and Jack Johnson. The Grainiacs! Ancient Grain Block Party on Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. will blow your senses away as you touch, smell and eat grains at different stations. Join us for the Big Bad Breakfast Block Party on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with John Currence, James Beard Award winner and Top Chef Masters contestant. John gathers his big bad friends to cook up the ultimate southern brunch and bloody mary bar. For all can’t miss events and sample schedules for the weekend, visit

303: Will this event return next year? 

ES: Yes, Slow Food Nations will be held annually in Denver. Dates have not yet been announced for 2018.

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