Carlo Petrini

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Carlo Petrini was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Carlo founded Slow Food, an eco-gastronomic organization, in Italy in 1986. His goal was to counteract the spread of fast food and the frenzy of fast eating, the disappearance of local food traditions, and the indifference about what we eat. Slow Food works on a global level to promote good, clean, and fair food. In other words: The food we eat should taste good, it should be produced in a way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health, and food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.
Carlo strongly believes that each consumer’s food choices have consequences all over the globe. He developed the concept of co-producers—that is, going beyond the passive role of a consumer and taking interest in those that produce our food, how they produce it, and the problems they face in doing so. Slow Food also protects food biodiversity, educates people about food, and brings consumers and producers together by promoting alternative distribution channels. Carlo understood early on the importance of food’s gastronomic value to change consumption patterns, educating consumers to be the primary actors in the transformation of the food industry (a key step to sustainable agriculture and a better environment).
Carlo believes this is the best defense against poor quality, mass-produced, or adulterated food, and also against environmentally damaging and unhealthy food in our diets. By reawakening and training consumers’ senses, Slow Food helps people rediscover the joys of eating local foods and understand the importance of caring where their food comes from, who makes it, and how it’s made. Slow Food safeguards local cuisines, traditional products, and vegetable and animal species at-risk of extinction, through a process called “taste education.” Carlo has developed educational programs for everyone: Children and adults, members, and non-members; with a special effort to include youth in this transformation.
Another important area of Carlo’s work is the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity to safeguard our gastronomic resources and to defend our world’s heritage of agricultural biodiversity and gastronomic tradition. The Slow Food Foundation supports projects in defense of food biodiversity in more than sixty countries and promotes a sustainable agriculture that respects the environment, the cultural identity of local people, and promotes animal well-being.
To strengthen the field by bringing together all the various players involved in the food industry, Carlo established Terra Madre, a global network of food communities, including, farmers, breeders, fishermen, cooks, and agricultural experts, to exchange ideas, knowledge and experience, discuss their work, and to come up with possible solutions to common problems.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

More For You