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Slowing Down for a Bite to Eat

French-American chef Michele Haines is on a tour of Russia spreading the good word about Slow Food.

Published: June 21, 2013 (Issue # 1764)



  • Storytelling is an integral part of dining with Chef Michele.
    Photo: Allison Geller / spt

  • Chef Haines believes in the merits of taking time to savor a meal.
    Photo: Allison Geller / spt

Hailing from Paris-via-Philadelphia, chef Michele Haines stopped by St. Petersburg to both teach and learn from the locals as part of a trip to promote the Slow Food movement in Russia.

Slow Food, a grassroots organization with members in 150 countries, has as its goal linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to community and the environment. More of a lifestyle than a campaign, the international movement encourages people to live and eat closer to the earth a matter of course for some, a revelation for others.

I became interested in Slow Food from their beginning in 1986, in Bra, Italy, Haines said. I believe in good health, in good, fresh, local produce, seasonal meals, organically cultivated if possible, no pesticide or chemicals.

I believe in food to be enjoyed in good company or family, taking your time.

The 71-year-old chef, who has visited as many countries, owns a French bistro, Spring Mill Cafe, outside of Philadelphia. Its a good thing she has her older son to run the restaurant when she is out of town, as Haines spends much of her time hopping around the globe, working as a personal chef, learning new cuisines and pursuing her Slow Food and charity projects.

Haines spent her days in St. Petersburg going to the market and picking out fresh produce and farmers products, eating at both new and well-established restaurants and meeting with Russias most precocious chefs and food personalities, such as food writer Maxim Syrnikov. After St. Petersburg, shell travel to Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow and Suzdal to lead workshops and demonstrations.

At a Slow Food gathering on Russia Day in the apartment of St. Petersburg Slow Food leader Svetlana Haliavina, friends and Slow Foodies gathered eagerly around the stove to watch Haines prepare an authentic Moroccan couscous and pate de foie gras. A neighbors fridge had already been borrowed to make room for the chocolate mousse that Haines had already prepared.

As people milled around, lending a hand to the cooking under the chefs watchful eye or chatting and drinking wine, a pot of the traditional Russian soup ukha simmered on a burner. Gathering around the stove and then the table, guests took part in the simple essence of Slow Food: Uniting people across cultures through the preparation and enjoyment of a meal.

Slow Food is organized into local chapters, or convivia, from the Latin word for a banquet or feast. There are now 14 convivia in Russia.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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