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Mission Al Fresco – Festival Overview

Ladies and gents, the festival is now over and I am back in US of A.  It was a whirlwind of food, culture and education.  Over the following weeks, I will be publishing individual articles about some of the more notable experiences and classes.  There will of course be a slew of photos and videos for your perusal.  But first….let me give you a general overview of the 2016 edition of Salone del Gusto.

Let’s start with the positives…

September is a fantastic time to visit northern Italy.  The weather was very nice; there were a few days I even regretted not having a pair of shorts to walk around in.  This year, the festival organizers spread the event all over the city center which was great for tourists.  The layout of the public spaces filled with tents was well thought out.  Security was present and noticeable.

The variety of products this year was fantastic.  Some unorthodox additions included a barber shop set up, a food truck courtyard and free shuttle services.  There were impromptu dance performances, art exhibits, free cooking demonstrations and cultural concerts.

I was also privy to press perks this year, having been granted a pass.  I would like to give a special commendation to those in charge of this particular service.  The staff was helpful, the facilities provided were stocked with a beverage and snack bar, clean bathrooms, outlets to recharge electronics, daily event updates and free wifi.  Bra-vo!

That being said…

The dispersion of the festival was not beneficial for delegates, networking professionals or people attempting to take classes.  Commutes made it impossible to book as many classes, seminars or events as many would have liked.  Also making it accessible to the general public and removing the entry fee meant that many of the spectators did not have an invested interest.

People were less polite, free samples caused impossible pedestrian traffic jams, exhibitors had less time to talk about their products and the festival was just too big in my opinion.  I even encountered a poacher or two trying to take advantage of tourists by selling maps and flyers that you could find for free in other locations.  As always 5 days is hardly enough to see it all, but this year it definitely fell short.

As for me…

This edition felt more like a pandering to city tourism than it did a gathering of people supporting a movement.  I firmly believe all the workshops and classes should have been conducted in one building.  I can appreciate the need or desire to bring more people to the festival, but I felt like this year’s edition focused mainly on the tourism demographic and left the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

I am still glad I attended.  I learned many new things and met many new people.  However, in comparison to other editions, it was not as well rounded of an experience.  I love the concept of Slow Food.  Salone has been the stage for my professional development over the last 6 years.  Nevertheless, if 2018 plans are similar to this year, I may think twice about attending and recommending it to friends and colleagues.

Do not feel discouraged readers.  Every experience has something to be gained.  I hope you enjoy some of the sights and sounds I came across during my travels and stay tuned for all kinds of culinary inspiration.

Until next time…

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