Photograph by Pat Mateo
Food & Drink Features

Slow Food advocate Jam Melchor: "In a hungry country, we don’t have the right to waste food"

The Slow food advocate and Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement founder is striving to educate more and more people about what's on our plates—from tradition and sustainability to our colorful history and the future of food. 
Mandy Altura | Jul 25 2019

What isn’t often considered when throwing food is that we are not just wasting the meal, but also the resources used for that product. From farm production to water supply, their misuse creates both financial and environmental damages. Chef Jam Melchor is keenly aware of these problems that impact the world today. That's why he works toward sustainable resources in our country.

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Melchor is the country head of the Slow Food Youth Network Philippines as well as the founder of the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM). “Slow Food is a grass roots movement. It originated in Italy and it branched out all over the world," he explains to fellow chef Josh Boutwood in an episode of Heroes & Titans, ANCX's video series on making the world a better place. "Its main goal is to promote sustainability and fair food. It’s not an opposite of fast food, literally, but it’s more of the lifestyle.”

PCHM, on the other hand, is focused on preservation of Filipino food culture. "So it’s permanent and mandated by law,” Melchor says. “We have to celebrate our food culture as Filipinos.” As the convener of both companies, it’s his job to allow both of these organizations to work together in pursuit of these ideals.

 

A style choice

The Slow Food Movement organizes numerous events that promote sustainability. “For example, We just had the World Disco Soup Day, where we collected imperfect produce from different farmers and created something out of it.”

The core idea of the movement, Melchor explains, lies not only in conservation, but also passing down the lifestyle to new generations. “We want to educate young chefs, particularly academes who are grooming future chefs,” he adds. “Because they need to understand that in a hungry country, we don’t have the right to waste food, and you have to know your role in the food chain—from producer down to consumer.”

While sustainability is a key part in their movement, Slow Food also hopes to give chefs a new appreciation for the dishes that they are making, and where it is coming from. Traceability, he believes, is important.

Melchor admits that he doesn’t prioritize organic food, yet despite that he still manages to adhere to the principles of the movement. “Sometimes, especially our case in the Philippines, we have different sources. For example, there are good farmers that do not plant organic produce, but grow good vegetables. It doesn’t have to be pure organic and, as long as traceability is not a problem, I think you’re good.”

 

Giving back

Like the Slow Food Movement, PCHM is also about appreciation and preservation except that it focuses on culture. “Four years ago, when we decided to come up with PCHM, our only goal was to make sure that this group preserves Filipino food culture, or initiates the promotion and preservation of our local indigenous dishes,” he says.

As an advocate of Filipino cuisine, Melchor tries to figure out a way to give back to the food that he so loves. One aspect that significantly helps PCHM is the support of local farming and fishing industries. “We’re a big agricultural country, so it is sad that we import most of our produce like rice and fish. I personally want people within our industry to support local agriculture,” the chef says.

Melchor regularly works with larger companies, such as fast food restaurants, in an effort to educate their chefs in saving produce. “We try to invite them every time we organize taste workshops because linking farmers to chefs is important,” he emphasizes. “For example, the chefs can actually tell the farmers what can be planted so they can demand whatever.” It doesn’t end there, as Melchor even tries to challenge the government with these food issues, as he hopes that they can create laws to restrict bad practices in the industry. 

 

Leaving a Legacy

Melchor’s vision is for the entire industry to start implementing the values of Slow Food and the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement. “It’s not going to be an easy process, that’s why we’re taking things slowly—like slow food,” he quips. “We not only want to educate them, but make sure that they actually implement it within their corporations. And, of course, eventually, smaller companies will follow.”

While there is still work to be done, Melchor believes that he has created a lasting impact in the industry. “We’re not forever in this business and, eventually, someone will take over with our positions,” he says. "This is already a legacy, you know."

 

ANCX Heroes & Titans is in partnership with Organique. For more details, visit Organique.com.ph and Lazada.com.ph/organique