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Bread in Your Bag

Oct. 4, 2017

Bread in Your Bag

Bledar Kola left Albania for London as a teenager and worked his way up the kitchen career ladder. He remained abroad for many years, learning his culinary skills at some of the world's most applauded restaurants, including Pied à Terre, Noma, and Fäviken. Almost a decade ago, he returned home with the desire to refine Albanian cuisine. In February 2016, his restaurant Mullixhiu (The Miller) opened its doors to the public.

The restaurant follows the Slow Food philosophy, serving local and seasonal Albanian ingredients as well as supporting five endangered wheat varieties. There is a stone mill on site where fresh wheat is made into bread and sold daily in the restaurant. "The whole concept of the restaurant is to bring attention to the food and to the wheat varieties that are disappearing," says Bledar, adding that Slow Food and the Chefs' Alliance are very positive movements in Albania.

Bledar believes that chefs play a crucial role as intermediaries between producers and consumers, and should use their position to improve food culture in their local communities. One of his current projects was inspired by rising obesity rates among Albanian children, which is associated with children feeling ashamed to bring a packed lunch from home and instead eating unhealthy food at school.

Bledar started a movement called Buka ne Straje (Bread in Your Bag), to promote the idea of bringing a packed lunch from home.

Bledar organized meetings in a local park to demonstrate how parents could prepare food for their kids to take to school. Bledar also purchased a food truck with his personal savings, using it to visit different schools and continuing his efforts to educate children on the importance of healthy eating and cooking at home.

"My mission is to educate kids to eat healthy," he says. "It really worries me when kids come to the restaurant with the latest technology and they cannot eat food without watching a screen. People are more informed about iPhones than they are about a native fruit that has been around for all of history. Only chefs can change this. We have to take time to educate kids." Bledar's work is a great example of the essential role that chefs play by participating in their society's food culture and working to change it for the better.

Chef's Alliance Slow Food launched the Chefs' Alliance in the USA this spring. Are you a chef who believes in good, clean and fair food for all? Join the Chefs' Alliance at slowfoodusa.org/chefs-alliance and be part of our upcoming events and campaigns.

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