Food and Drink 

The sensible side of slow food

As part of sustainability or a tourist draw, Slow Food Whistler can make good cents

Dennis Marriott has a great vision for Whistler. It goes like this:

"I think we’re waking up and seeing that we should probably diversify a bit. The question is, how do we identify ourselves?

"By 2020 do we want to have only international chain restaurants at Whistler or do we want to support local products and local culture and keep local farmers going?"

So here’s his vision in a nutshell: It starts with all the outdoor pursuits. Add in a great arts and culture scene and a great restaurant scene that supports slow food. Then get everybody to recycle absolutely everything and have all the hotels built to super-high environmental standards. Keep vehicles out of the village – and presto, people will go, hey that’s really cool, and plan their eco-holiday at Whistler. Bonus: Whistler becomes a true working model for sustainability.

In case you couldn’t tell, Dennis, who manages Millennium Place when he isn’t dreaming up new identities for Whistler, is also part of a Whistler 20/20 task force looking at making the resort a model of sustainability. More to the point, he is one of the newest card-carrying members of Slow Food Whistler.

Not to say that his vision for creating diversity is a panacea for Whistler’s business woes, but it certainly is appealing and doable – after all, several of the components are already in place. And one of the elements with great potential in this eco-friendly, alt-tourism model is slow food.

Last column, I appealed to your rebellious, independent died-in-the-wool Whistler side to get you cranked about the slow food movement. This week I’m calling on your pragmatic side. And so is Dennis, who points out that A) you don’t have to be a chef, restaurateur or general foodie-type to do the slow thing, and B) it could make a real difference on how Whistler, and beyond, sorts out its future.

"All you have to be is passionate about eating," says Dennis.

"But I also look at this as an opportunity to influence what is available here at Whistler. If lots of the other members are in the food business and I show up and say this is what I’d like to see on a menu or buy at the grocery store, I’m able to give feedback directly to the suppliers and restaurateurs."

"When I bought my membership, in a way I bought the right to vote."

A bottom-up groundswell can make a difference. Imagine if there were 100, 200 or 1,000 card-carrying slow food members at Whistler. Whistler would become a mecca for slow food and generate all kinds of good things. Sinclair Philip, co-owner of Sooke Harbour House and head of Slow Food Canada, sees it this way:

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