Boosting the power of co-creation at the 10th IGCAT Experts Meeting

Gastronomy as a key to local development, cross-sectoral collaboration, engaging local communities, the importance of education and life-long learning to secure a sustainable future, were among the topics discussed at the 10th IGCAT Experts Meeting hosted by Aseer, World Region of Gastronomy awarded 2024 on 22 April 2024.

Organised at King Khalid University in Abha, with the support of the Culinary Arts Commission of the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia, Aseer Development Authority, and Bunyan, the conference offered many precious insights from different World and European Regions of Gastronomy.

President of King Khalid University, Prof. Saad bin Muhammad bin Dajem welcomed the audience, followed by a keynote address by Mayada Badr, CEO of the Culinary Arts Commission who highlighted that “this symposium is not just an acknowledgment of Aseer’s gastronomic excellence but also a recognition of its people’s enduring relationship with their land, their innovative spirit in sustainable agriculture, and their unwavering commitment to community and cultural preservation.”

By presenting the main aims and values underpinning the World and European Region of Gastronomy initiative, IGCAT President Diane Dodd PhD paved the way to the three session panels of the meeting, where representatives from several awarded and candidate regions provided expertise and best practices, strengthening the knowledge-sharing mission of IGCAT’s international Platform.

Chaired by IGCAT Vice-President, Dr. Edith Szivas, the first panel focused on the theme of Building Support Across the Region and included contributions by:

  • Director of Heritage and Culture Promotion Department at the Aseer Development Authority, Abdulrahman Ahmed Assiri who illustrated Aseer’s Development Plans to shine a light on the future of culinary arts in the region through the engagement of the local community.
  • Managing Director of PRODECA (Government of Catalonia), Ramon Sentmartí who explained the successful journey of Catalonia, World Region of Gastronomy 2025 (and European Region of Gastronomy 2016) highlighting the importance of Putting National Plans into Action and Cross-Sector Collaboration.
  • President of Cultural Association Euro East Alternative, Iulia Dragut who reported about her experience in organising Large-scale Events and Engaging Large Audiences in Sibiu, European Region of Gastronomy 2019, and how the title was key to promote gastronomic sustainability at national and international level.

The second panel on Activating Citizens and Valuing Traditional Food was chaired by IGCAT Board Member, Omar Valdez and included:

  • Head of Research and Preservation of Culinary Assets at the Culinary Arts Commission, Majed Almuhanna who presented The Culinary Codification Project and Results in Aseer aimed at scientifically document the local ingredients and dishes to build a strategy for their future enhancement and preservation.
  • Executive Director of FUEGOS Foundation, Orazio Bellettini Cedeño from Manabí, World Region of Gastronomy candidate 2026 (Ecuador) who highlighted how the title represents an opportunity for his region to increase their capacity to work together and create a common vision for the future, by building on the work already started with the Latitud Iche Food Route.
  • Technical responsible for the beekeeping at Lousamel Beekeepers Cooperative, Ana Paula Sançana who explained The transformative potential of local gastronomy in a global context – The case of Serra da Lousã PDO Honey, stressing the important role that this product played in Coimbra’s journey as European Region of Gastronomy 2021-22.

Education and Life-Long Learning was the topic of the third panel, chaired by IGCAT Board Member, Jaume Gomila Saura and joined by:

  • Executive Manager of Aseer, World Region of Gastronomy 2024, Mohammed Hamoud who described the opportunities and challenges of holding the Award in the region and reported about the initiatives to be developed by the stakeholders to secure a strong legacy of the title.
  • Academies Director at Bunyan, Wassim Zeitouni who explained Bunyan’s Role in Training Services for Tourism, Hospitality and the Entertainment Industries including tailored training programmes and hands-on learning.
  • Director of Coimbra School of Hospitality and Tourism (Tourism of Portugal), José Luís Marques who emphasised the importance of Education and Sustainability as key factors to build the strategy and actions of Coimbra, European Region of Gastronomy 2021-22.

Diane Dodd PhD concluded the symposium by thanking all of the speakers for making the 10th IGCAT Experts Meeting a great success and an opportunity to build stronger connections among different regions, with the ultimate aim of empowering their communities. She highlighted how the event offered the audience three main takeaways: the importance of human capacity building and investing in young and older people’s education; the power of co-creation to build a shared vision, mutually enhancing each other’s efforts; and the value of international collaborations to share knowledge and creating opportunities for joint projects to emerge.

The meeting concluded with a traditional dinner served at Abu Alssarah palace, one of the most important heritage buildings in the Aseer region that stands at the top of al-Soudah mountains. Built in 1836, the palace has recently been turned into a family-run museum devoted to explaining and preserving the local traditions.

Held for the first time outside Europe, the 10th IGCAT Experts Meeting was organised in the framework of the 27th World Regions of Gastronomy Platform meeting (22-25 April) where Platform members from 11 regions had the opportunity to visit several projects unfolding across Aseer, each aimed at enriching and championing the local food culture. To conclude the programme, on 25 April IGCAT’s 5th World Food Gift Challenge was celebrated to award the most unique food and food-related craft products from the Regions of Gastronomy.

A streaming video of the 10th IGCAT Experts Meeting is available on IGCAT’s YouTube channel.

About the World/European Regions of Gastronomy

World/European Regions of Gastronomy, guided by IGCAT, are working together to strengthen food security through the celebration of distinctive food cultures; create employment by stimulating creativity and gastronomic innovation; nourish children and adults through culinary and cultural education; driving environmental sustainability in tourism, hospitality and agricultural sectors; supporting balance and sustainable tourism practices; highlighting and supporting expertise from within rural and urban communities, creating connections and sharing good practices; and contributing to community health and well-being.

About IGCAT

IGCAT aims to empower local communities by raising awareness of the importance of protecting and promoting distinct regional food, culture, arts and natural assets as part of sustainable and balanced tourism and development strategies. This is essential to safeguarding our planet, health, wellness and local economies.

IGCAT is a non-profit institute established in 2012, working with regional stakeholder consortiums in the fields of gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism. It counts on the expertise of a worldwide network of experts and works in partnership with specialised intergovernmental organisations.

IGCAT founded the World/European Region of Gastronomy Award and is the official secretariat for the World/European Regions of Gastronomy Platforms. Furthermore, the Institute has developed the European Young Chef Award, the World Food Gift Challenge, the Top Websites for Foodie Travelers Award and the international Food Film Menu.