Danny Olivas joined Whole Foods Market Northern California marketing team in 2007, but has been involved with good food for much longer. Danny’s mom was a foodie and had a long career in fine-dining operations. She always bought the highest quality food the family budget would allow and in doing so, she passed on her passion for sharing good food with family and friends to Danny. Earlier this month, I found myself getting my hands dirty digging up the lawn outside San Francisco’s City Hall alongside such influential people as Alice Waters and Mayor Gavin Newsom. The occasion was the creation of the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden in San Francisco and the mayor was letting the group rip out the lawn to plant a quarter-acre garden. It is now the centerpiece of the Slow Food Nation festival, which takes place in San Francisco this Labor Day weekend. Whole Foods Market got involved with Slow Food Nation to highlight the connection between plate and planet. As I was planting seeds that foggy San Francisco summer morning, I was thinking about how our organizations would work together to develop greater respect for food and the people who produce it. For our part, I’m happy that many of the food producers featured at Slow Food Nation sell their products in our stores. This includes farmers and purveyors who exemplify local, sustainable food such as St. Benoît Yogurt, a French-style yogurt maker in Sonoma, California. These guys source organic Jersey milk from a neighboring dairy, hand-select the fruit and honey used in the yogurt at Bay Area farmers’ markets and use ceramic containers to eliminate packaging waste. In fact, Whole Foods Market recently gave St. Benoît Yogurt a loan to help expand their business. When I look at the bigger picture, Slow Food Nation really seems to be picking up velocity. This is the first time that a Slow Food event of this scale has been held in the US (the parent organization is based in Italy and got its start in the eighties in protest to McDonald’s opening in Rome). Foodies, intellectuals and bloggers are eagerly watching to see how the movement will translate here in the US. Early indications are positive. Tickets are sold out and the media is buzzing. It’s my hope that our partnership with Slow Food Nation will help draw attention to food that is good, clean and fair. No small task, indeed. * * * Look out for another posting from me. I’ll share my thoughts on what is sure to be a weekend packed with amazing food, critical thinking from leaders in the sustainable food community and some really cool music. * * * If you can’t make it to San Francisco, here’s a Slow Food recipe to try at home featuring summer’s superstar veggie, the heirloom tomato. Heirloom Gazpacho Serves 4 3 ripe heirloom tomatoes, peeled and chopped 1/2 purple onion, finely chopped 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped 1/2 sweet red bell pepper seeded and chopped 1 stalks celery, chopped 1 TB chopped fresh parsley 1 TB chopped fresh chives 1/2 clove garlic, minced 2 TB red wine vinegar 2 TB olive oil 1 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tsp sugar Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste 3 or more drops of hot pepper sauce to taste 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (omit for vegetarian option) 2 cups tomato juice 2 ounces shaved jack cheese Combine all ingredients. Blend slightly, to desired consistency. Place in non-metal, non-reactive storage container, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight, allowing flavors to blend. Garnish with shaved jack cheese.