Speakers throw tomatoes at the audience!

At the conclusion of the workshop “Food and gastronomy as innovation drivers for more resilient regions” the speakers threw (or rather passed) tomatoes to the audience to make a statement about the importance of food and cultural diversity for regional development. On 11 October 2017, in the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities, leading policy-makers and experts from six European Regions of Gastronomy gathered in a workshop organised by IGCAT to discuss the significant role food and gastronomy can play in sustainable regional development. Held at the Embassy of Finland in Brussels, the event highlighted the benefits of being part of the Regions of Gastronomy network by providing concrete examples of how local plant and animal varieties, different food traditions and customs can lead to increased inter-sectorial cooperation, sustainability and product innovation.

The workshop that focussed on the lessons learned from the European Regions of Gastronomy Platform and Award, demonstrated that by capitalising on the huge potential of distinctive regional resources and combining them by means of innovative solutions, regions can become stronger.

Head of 6th Mandate of Committee of the Regions’ Commission for Natural Resources (NAT), Ossi Martikainen opened the event by welcoming the audience and stating that farming is a delicate profession that needs support, policies and actions.

Dr. Diane Dodd introduced the European Region of Gastronomy Award concept demonstrating the importance of inter-sectorial dialogue. She insisted that wonderful opportunities emerge when gastronomy, culture, tourism, agriculture, education and the creative sectors come together and when there is wide stakeholder involvement there is a stronger commitment to sustainability and responsible growth in the region. “The heart of the Regions of Gastronomy Platform’s approach is to encourage creative, sustainable and responsible policies for promoting local food traditions, fostering new products, improving service and provisions, thus providing new opportunities for jobs and growth.”

The workshop addressed three main topics: Convergence and cohesionSustainability as essential component for resilient regions; and Innovation on tradition, involving speakers from different partner regions and inviting them to share their experiences and the goals achieved thus far.

Executive Director of the Catalan Tourism Board, Patrick Torrents from Catalonia, European Region of Gastronomy 2016 and Scientific Secretary of East Lombardy, European Region of Gastronomy 2017, Elena Viani kick-started the discussion on the development opportunities offered by cross-sectoral dialogue. Both highlighted the importance of building a wide and strong stakeholder group, involving actors from agriculture, education as well as hospitality and service sector. Public, private, third sectors and academic collaborations were cited as good examples of joined thinking.

The debate focused then on sustainability and the development of more environmentally, socially, culturally and economically responsible food production and consumption practices. Mayoress of the City of Oss, Wobine Buijs-Glaudemans from North Brabant, European Region of Gastronomy 2018 and Prof. Dr. Maria-Mihaela Antofie from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences of “Lucian Blaga” University in Sibiu, European Region of Gastronomy 2019 explained the policies and initiatives that are taking place in their regions in order to favour the creation of sustainable food systems.

The topic Innovation on tradition was then addressed by Head of Department of Sustainable Growth Initiatives, Culture and Tourism of Central Denmark Region, Pia Lange Christensen in representation of Aarhus-Central Denmark Region, European Region of Gastronomy 2017 and Mayoress of the County of Galway, Eileen Mannion from Galway-West of Ireland, European Region of Gastronomy 2018. Their contribution highlighted in particular the importance of tradition as a source for innovation and the necessity to instil pride into communities about their local food cultures. Significant issues the European Region of Gastronomy programme strongly advocates for.

Programme Manager of We Are Food 2018, Lian Duif and Strategic Advisor of the City of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Anja van Hout (North Brabant, European Region of Gastronomy 2018) and; Coordinator of Galway-West of Ireland, European Region of Gastronomy 2018, Elaine Donohue added their enthusiasm to the dialogue on how being part of a Platform has benefited them as coordinators in their regions.

Christof Kienel Head of Section for the NAT Commission from the Committee of the Regions, offered some concluding remarks, stating the importance of continuing dialogue to ensure strong and positive cohesion in and throughout European regions.

The workshop preceded the prestigious Award Ceremony of Kuopio, European Region of Gastronomy 2020, followed by a tasting of local food from the region prepared by chef Aki Hiltunen. Eight already awarded European Regions of Gastronomy generously offered food and/or drinks from their region, including innovative food products from their territories and local producers.

The European Region of Gastronomy Platform and Award aim to contribute to better quality of life in European regions, by highlighting distinctive food cultures, educating for better health and sustainability and stimulating gastronomic innovation. IGCAT (International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism) organises the award with the support of European institutions.

IGCAT is a non-profit organisation established in 2012 working in the fields of gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism. Through its worldwide network of experts, IGCAT aims to empower local communities by guiding, facilitating, and supporting local leaders in cities, regions and cultural projects to understand the potential of their distinct food, culture, arts and sustainable tourism assets. IGCAT is the official secretariat for the Region of Gastronomy Platform and provides the European Region of Gastronomy Award, the European Young Chef Award and the Local Food Gift Award.

By enricgomez.com