The Community in Cuisine: Chef Giancarla Bodoni Takes Farm-to-Table to New Territory

rē-thinking agriculture & cuisine as forms of community nourishment.

By: Jessica Ourisman
The Community in Cuisine: Chef Giancarla Bodoni Takes Farm-to-Table to New Territory

We already know that food is the foundation of wellness, with health innovators and nutritionists consistently pointing to the role of our gut health and the emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods in our diets. But for a professional chef, the notion of ingredient purity being paramount is hardly avant-garde; it’s been long understood that the quality of ingredients plays a crucial role in the success of a meal’s execution. Executive Chef Giancarla Bodoni‘s philosophy goes deeper, she believes that intention also matters. Because of this, she sources her ingredients in ways that facilitate wellness for patrons while also providing sustenance to the greater community.

Chef Giancarla is not new to the world of organic cuisine and the farm-to-table movement. She was one of its pioneers, and was named “Best Organic Chef” by the Miami Times. What she cooks up at Monteverdi in Tuscany, Italy, truly brings new meaning to the notion of nourishment.

Cooking with Integrity

“[The Farm-to-Table movement] began at a time when people were no longer satisfied with the industrialized food systems and were looking for alternatives,” Chef Bodoni says. “For us at Monteverdi, it is simply the way that food was produced and consumed from the times of the Etruscans and Romans. We just add creativity and sophistication to the mix.”

She goes on to explain that agriculture was developed over 11,000 years ago as humans shifted from being nomads and foragers, to farmers. But the reality of agriculture today — including the destruction wrought upon the environment, people, and animals due to industrialized farming, or factory farming — is a far cry from the sustainable agricultural model she implements with Monteverdi. “The importance of [the farm-to-table model] is that we are able to support the development of local food systems which are not only [beneficial] to the individual consumers, but to the whole community.” She describes her relationships with the local farmers as one of “healthy interdependence,” and notes that it creates a sense of security within the community to know that it can provide sustenance for itself.

Sourcing is Everything

It was after discovering the unpleasant realities in the world of corporate agriculture that Chef Bodoni understood that creating food that felt aligned with her belief system necessitated a renewed focus on sourcing. “The primary focus for me is sourcing. Everything starts from there [with the] pure, unadulterated products nature provides and man nurtures,” she says.

By connecting with the local farmers, whose smaller-scale production honors the natural laws, rhythms, and limits of nature, and by paying close attention to the ethics and integrity of what goes into the meals she crafts, is how she rē-envisions the world of haute cuisine. She believes this has as much to do with the methods and intentions of the farmers themselves, as it does the produce, and perhaps even her skill as a chef. “I truly believe in the power of our energy, positive and negative. I know that products that are grown, and animals that are raised humanely, are good for us. I am always looking for the people behind the food who are truly dedicated and passionate about what they do,” she explains. “This is clear when I taste their products.”

Making a Difference One Meal at a Time

Chef Bodoni is one of the female innovators rē•spinning the way that businesses and industry can co-exist more harmoniously with our communities and our planet. She is simply living in alignment with her beliefs, and turning her craft into artwork by making her personal truth a reality. “When I embarked on the organic and sustainable journey, I knew I was not going to change the world by myself,” she says. “But if I could impact my children, my guests, and raise their awareness, that was a start.”

In essence, she is “slowing down” the agricultural industry — moving the needle away from sheer quantity and profits, onto the merits of quality, integrity, and intention. Her efforts pay off on the individual and community levels, and the difference in food can allegedly be tasted. “[People] are too busy and life is speeding by. We don’t really know what a tomato or cantaloupe or healthy piece of meat tastes like because they come from machine-operated facilities, grown without care for the product but instead for the bottom line,” she says of the status quo. “But our guests are continuously astounded by the flavors they find in our food — and I know why.”

She has us rē-thinking the way we look at meals as she innovates within the confines of the industry surrounding food. What she creates is food that isn’t just nourishment for the body; it’s wellness for the soul, for the community, and for the planet. “I feel the need to do what I love with a higher purpose,” she explains. “As people and consumers, we all play a part and are responsible for the future of food for generations to come.”

Tomato and Watermelon Tartare with Basil Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups diced watermelon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Basil leaves 

For the watermelon marinade:

  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp pink peppercorns
  • Pinch of salt

For the basil ice cream:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (keep the stems)
  • 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup of soaked cashews (can be substituted with 1 small avocado)
  • 1 ice cube
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Method of Preparation:

  1. Place the diced tomatoes in a bowl and season them with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil, garlic (whole but press with the side of a knife to allow oils and aroma to infuse the oil), and basil stems, and allow them to sit overnight at room temperature.
  2. Mix the watermelon marinade. Add the diced watermelon. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. To make the ice cream, place the drained cashews, basil, lime juice, and all other ingredients in a blender. Process until you have a smooth puree. Place in the freezer.

Notes from the Chef: 

Keep the watermelon rind and preserve it in the watermelon marinade once you drain the watermelon for the tartare. It’s great in salads or fish crudos.

The ice cube will keep the temperature in the blender low as you process the ingredients so that the basil does not turn dark. 

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