Gourmet.com • Nov. 21, 2008
By the time Joshua Viertel took the helm of Slow Food USA this fall, the 30-year old already had a quiet reputation for mixing a refined palate with grassroots sensibilities. The former farmer’s résumé would make most recruiters pause: There are stints in Sicilian sheep pastures, hurricane-ravaged towns in Honduras, and small New England farms; a philosophy degree and protester bona fides from Harvard; and a job history that includes a reference from Alice Waters. If it seems like a no-brainer to hand the reins of the country’s most prominent food-culture group to this man, some of Viertel’s other passions—grassroots organizing and social justice—suggest where the next generation of American foodies may be headed. Writer Tracie McMillan spoke with Viertel, fresh from Slow Food International’s Terra Madre conference in Italy, to talk about founding Yale’s landmark farming initiative, whether we should be paying more for our food, and finding inspiration in a bodega.