Chef, Herb Grower and Ham Producer Promote the 'Slow Food' Way

A local chef and an herb grower have enlisted the aid of a ham producer to fill out the menu for a “Slow Dinner.” The event is a fund-raiser to establish a local chapter (convivia) of an organization that promotes awareness and educates the public about food ecology and sources — and making what we eat the natural way. Slow Food is an international movement that seeks to preserve and re-establish food traditions and a more harmonious way of life.

Chef Andy Fair of Echo Charlie’s, herbalist Marissa Kilgore of Black Barn Herbs and ham producer Nancy Mahaffey of Col. Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Hams are the principals involved in a Slow Dinner planned Friday, Nov. 19.

Fair has put together the menu for the five course dinner and will do the food preparation. The dinner will be served at Echo Charlie’s on Lake Barkley. Kilgore is furnishing the herbs and organically-grown vegetables.

Mahaffey is furnishing Newsom’s ham, prosciutto and bacon.

The sponsors for the event are Fair’s employer Eddy Creek Marina, Fortner Gas, Mahaffey’s Newsom’s Old Mill Store in downtown Princeton and Kilgore’s Black Barn Herbs.

Why Slow Food?

“We believe in what Slow Food stands for,” said Kilgore.

“It’s just so much better,” Fair said. “I’m so tired of processed garbage. I don’t want to go to drive-thrus and fast food.

“It is so much more fun to pick up your food, cook it with friends and family and then sit down and eat with them.”

Slow Food’s primary purpose is educating the public about “slower foods” — organically grown foods, economically and ecologically fragile foods and plants, and artisans, like Nancy Mahaffey of Col. Newsom’s Aged Country Hams.

“We are about buying from and supporting our local producers,” Kilgore said.

“We just really want to start getting across the importance of knowing where your food comes from,” she said.

Fair has been the chef at Echo Charlie’s for over a year. He comes from the St. Louis area (Edwardsville, Ill.), but has been familiar with this region of western Kentucky all of his life, traveling here because his father uses Eddy Creek Marina.

Fair, who turned 27 on Saturday, received his training as a chef at Johnson and Wales University. He has a bachelor’s degree in food science and human nutrition from the University of Illinois.

Kilgore, a mother of two young children, has been involved with Black Barn Herbs for three years, growing and marketing in the area.

This past year she started growing vegetables, too. “I do it all organically,” Kilgore said.

Mahaffey is the owner-operator of Col. Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Hams. She is the third generation of the Newsom family to cure hams using a family recipe that dates to the 1700s.

Her hams are marketed locally at Newsom’s Old Mill Store, the current day version of a family business established in 1917, and on the internet at

Fair’s kitchen is one of Kilgore’s customers for herbs and vegetables, and soon after coming to the area, he discovered Newsom’s.

Fair said that he was introduced to the Slow Food way and the organization in Urbana, Ill., about two years ago by Chef Alice Waters.

He said that Waters is a proponent of ecological stewardship and natural foods and is involved in many education programs, particularly teaching elementary school children about the benefits of gardening and how to do it.

After talking to Kilgore in his search for the kinds of food that he likes to use in the kitchen, Fair discovered an ally in his plans to bring the Slow Food way to western Kentucky.

Kilgore said that the pair applied to Slow Food, head-quartered in New York, to establish a chapter in this region — the Purchase Area Slow Food Convivia. “There is one in Louisville and one is being started in Lexington, but there is nothing in this area. They granted us a convivia. Now we have to work hard to get members. We have to raise our own operating funds,” she said.

As she began to formulate her plan to bring the Slow Food way into the area, Kilgore approached Mahaffey with her Slow Food discovery, only to learn that Mahaffey’s product was already known to Slow Food and had been the subject of a feature article in the organization’s U.S. publication The Snail in December. Mahaffey’s ham is one of a few across the nation produced by historic methods.

She spoke Monday about her ham as part of a seminar presented at the National Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Conference, held in Louisville. “I really believe that it is an important thing for people to teach their children how to grow their food — how to garden. It’s a disappearing art, but something that may become a necessity again one day,” Mahaffey said. “Food producers are being briefed on the potential for bioterrorism as it relates to the ingredients that are used to manufacture food on a large scale,” she said. Kilgore pointed out that much of the food in groceries today “comes from Chile, and we don’t have any idea what they are using on it.”

Educating the public and increasing awareness about the types of food that Mahaffey and Kilgore produce and that Fair cooks is a primary goal of Slow Food, which now exists in over 45 countries with more than 70,000 members.

Reservations are required for the fund-raising dinner. The event cost is $40 per person or $75 per couple. It is planned to accommodate 40, Fair said, but the restaurant could seat up to 80 for the event.

For information or to make reservations, persons can call Kilgore at 270-365-5023 or Fair at 618-638-2523. The annual membership cost for Slow Food is $60 for individuals and $75 for couples.

In the Photo above: Chef Andy Fair (left), ham producer Nancy Mahaffey and herb grower Marissa Kilgore sample Newsom’s Aged Hams prosciutto as they prepare for a Slow Dinner fundraising event for the area’s Slow Food convivia.

Princeton, Ky., circa 2004