Gozo recommended for the title of European Region of Gastronomy 2026

An international jury comprising of four international experts, accompanied by IGCAT’s President, Diane Dodd PhD considered the application of Gozo region for the title European Region of Gastronomy 2026. After reviewing the bid book The Island of Gozo: An Eclectic Journey submitted on 14 December 2023, the jury visited the region, 12-14 February 2024. The aim of the visit was to assess the region’s appropriateness and readiness to host the title in 2026. The jury will prepare a comprehensive report with recommendations to support the region’s journey.

During the visit, the jury met with more than 30 leading stakeholders and organisations from across the islands, including city leaders, academic institutions, and local entities concerned with the development and protection of Gozo as a gastronomic region. The jury was pleased to get to know many stakeholders from public, private, third sector and academic institutions and applauded the efforts of all involved from many sectors in the strategies and plans for the region.

General comments

The jury was impressed by how the vision for Gozo, European Region of Gastronomy 2026 has been inspired and reinforced by the Regional Development Plan which places particular attention on agriculture, environment and social-cultural growth. We witnessed an emerging concern to protect species and traditional food production that considers nature, culture, crafts and wellness of local citizens.

In particular, the jury recognised the leadership from Gozo Regional Council, President Dr. Samuel Azzopardi, Executive Secretary Rita Mifsud Attard, Cultural Manager Naomi Galea, EU/Local Funds Manager, Fabian Galea, Projects Manager Peter Ray Said, IT Manger Baskal Saliba, Environmental Manager Nicky Saliba, the support of Communications Coordinator Darren Cassar, and ARC Research and Consultancy (Elaine Falzon and Davinia Galea) and the many great examples of good practises, not forgetting the three Gozo Ambassadors – Anna Marie Galea, George Borg and Amand P. Veranneman – that other regions could learn from including:

  • Gozo Regional Council’s capacity to bring together all the stakeholders to develop a concise and consistent marketing strategy for the European region of Gastronomy;
  • Gozo Regional Development Authority’s Research and Strategic Plan for Rural Development that included all the stakeholders and we value partnership and cooperation, the consultation process is very positive;
  • Tourism and Economic Development Directorate of the Ministry for Gozo’s commitment to develop audio-visual material about Gozo’s food heritage (storytelling capacity);
  • Gozo Tourism Association’s visionary, creative and supportive of businesses;
  • Magro Food Tour Experience, a private sector initiative that underlines core values related to safeguarding the heritage of food-making and provided a valuable and emotional visitor experience;
  • Gozo Artisan Network’s commitment to developing food gifts and food experiences for the World Food Gift Challenge and their commitment to a quality label to identify real local crafts;
  • Xwejni Salt Pans a heart-felt visitor experience, sharing the intangible heritage passed from generation to generation, and an opportunity to learn about the fragility of working with nature;
  • Gozo Business Chamber’s dedication to encouraging young entrepreneurs;
  • Gozo NGO Association that is bringing civil society together, promoting sustainability in events including the importance of local food;
  • Institute of Tourism Studies’s forward looking dedication to climate change and their commitment on youth policies in the hospitality sector to retain talent and ensure trained professionals to provide an excellent service for visitors.
  • Institute of Earth Systems of the University of Malta (Gozo Campus) research and application of AI to find solutions for climate change and working with universities at an international level and recovery of autochthonous varieties resistant to climate change;
  • Friends of the Earth Malta that are restoring the Comino Bakery as a socio-cultural and environmental project;
  • Gozo Action Group Foundation implementing the leader programme and a great partner to work with other European Regions of Gastronomy for sustainable rural development;
  • Heritage Malta‘s exceptional job in preserving and promoting seven heritage sites in Gozo. The jury was particularly impressed with the two visited sites: Ġgantija Archaeological Park and Ta’ Kola Windmill.

Above all, the jury want to compliment the human capital that is truly special in Gozo, the individual stories, passion, love and willingness to share their story was felt and especially they would like to say a thanks to chef Christopher Pace of Al Sale restaurant, John Magro, Chairperson at Magro Brothers Group, Fr Gerald Buhagiar, Salvu Vella one of the last remaining Comino residents, Josephine Xuereb from the Xwejni Salt Pans, chef Rosina from Ta’Rosina, Rikkardu Zammit and Alex Debono, sheep farmers, Mathew and Nancy Buttigieg from Mekren Bakery, the fisherman Angelo Meilak.

Finally, the jury noted the great role that the hospitality sector is playing and wished to thank everyone that provided incredible food, hospitality and generosity throughout the visit and especially:

The Duke Hotel (Victoria), Al Sale Restaurant (Xaghra), Café Jubilee (Victoria), Ta’ Rosina (Sannat), Mekran Bakery (Nadur), Il-Kartell Restaurant (Marsalforn), ITS students and staff (Qala) and Ta Frenc Restaurant (Xaghra).

We would like to thank each and every person we met and those not mentioned but that equally added to the wonderful impression we will take with us of Gozo:

Dr. Samuel Azzopardi, President of Gozo Regional Council

Rita Mifsud Attard, Executive Secretary of Gozo Regional Council

Naomi Galea, Cultural Manager at Gozo Regional Council

Fabian Galea, EU/Local Funds Manager at Gozo Regional Council

Peter Ray Said, Projects Manager at Gozo Regional Council

Baskal Saliba, IT Manger at Gozo Regional Council

Nicky Saliba, Environmental Manager at Gozo Regional Council

Darren Cassar, Communications Coordinator at Gozo Regional Council

Davinia Galea, ARC Research & Consultancy

Elaine Falzon, ARC Research & Consultancy

Anna Marie Galea, Ambassador of Gozo, European Region of Gastronomy candidate 2026

George Borg, Ambassador of Gozo, European Region of Gastronomy candidate 2026

Amand P Veranneman, Ambassador of Gozo, European Region of Gastronomy candidate 2026

Daniel Borg, CEO at Gozo Business Chamber

Prof. Everaldo Attard, Director of the Institute of Earth Systems, University of Malta (Gozo Campus)

Juergen Attard, Senior Manager Research and Policy Development at Gozo Regional Development Authority

Marthese Cassar, Research & Policy Manager, Gozo Regional Development Authority

Ronald Sultana, Director at the Tourism and Economic Development Directorate within the Ministry for Gozo

Anthony Zammit, Research Services at the Ministry for Gozo

George Refalo, Gozo Artisan Network

Saviour French, President of the NGOs Association of Gozo

Joseph Camilleri, Treasurer of the NGOs Association of Gozo

Yosef Magro, Manager at Gozo Action Group Foundation

Jesmond Borg, Head of the Institute of Tourism Studies (Gozo Campus)

Stephan Tabone, Academic Manager at the Institute of Tourism Studies

Dr. Simon Caruana, Coordinator of the Diving degree at the Institute of Tourism Studies

Gino Schiavone, Quality Assurance Manager at the Institute of Tourism Studies

Michelangelo Galea, gardener, Friends of the Earth Malta

Leanne Gafa, Heritage Malta

Daniel Gauci, Heritage Malta

Daphne Sant, Heritage Malta

John Magro, Chairperson at Magro Brothers Group

Noel Magro, Head of Human Resources at Magro Brothers Group

Tricia Bongailas, Magro Food Village and Savina Creative Centre

George Aquilina, Operations Manager at Farm Fresh

Lina Azzopardi, cook at Magro Food Village

Fr. Gerald Buhagiar, Ta’ Pinu

Ta’ Dbieġi Crafts Village

Rikkardu Zammit, sheep farmer and owner of Ta’ Rikardu Restaurant

Alex Debono, sheep farmer

Josephine Xuereb, salt farmer, Xwejni Salt Pans

Nancy Buttigieg, Mekren Bakery

Matthew Buttigieg, Mekren Bakery

Chef Christopher Pace, Al Sale restaurant

Chef Rosina, owner Ta’ Rosina

Salvu Vella, Comino resident

Angelo Meilak, fishermen

Anthony Cassar, photographer

The jury wish to note that the Award will give extra stimulus for the stakeholders to continue and deepen their cooperation; share knowledge with and cross-marketing with other awarded and candidate regions of Gastronomy, thus providing international visibility.


The jury appreciated that the bid:

  • integrates the six different focus areas of IGCAT;
  • has had a genuine development with multiple stakeholders participating;
  • Includes plans for Gozo’s participation in IGCAT joint projects that show a commitment to the European dimension
  • presents a long-term lasting legacy for the region;
  • shows a strong commitment from the regional partners to sustainability and quality food products;


The jury agreed that the exceptional food and hospitality found in Gozo, the quality of local products, commitment to traditional methods of food production, the culture and indeed harmony of cultures, arts and crafts makes Gozo’s application extremely strong.

Therefore, on the basis of the written application and visit to the region, the jury decided that Gozo region should be recommended for the title European Region of Gastronomy 2026 and pass to the final phase of the application process.

The jury will submit in the coming weeks their recommendations to the region and IGCAT Board will take a final decision based on the region’s response. Subject to the region’s response, the jury expects that IGCAT Board will approve Gozo’s title at the next IGCAT Advisory Forum scheduled for 12 June 2024. The jury very much hope to see preparations unfold for the region’s Award Ceremony in October 2024 which will be an opportunity to share Gozo’s eclectic food treasures with the world.

Jury composition

Diana Hounslow, Ambassador for Hauts-de-France European Region of Gastronomy 2023 and expert in tourism focussed her attention on jobs, creativity, tourism and entrepreneurship.

Jaume Gomila, promotor of Menorca, European Region of Gastronomy 2022 and President of the Adult Schools of Menorca who focussed his attention on culture, citizen engagement, empowerment and educational initiatives in the region;

Levan Kharatishvili, Founder and CEO of Creative Strategies Lab (Georgia), founder of the first Gastronomy Academy in Georgia, as well as expert for the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe focussed his attention on visibility, communication, marketing, legacy and evaluation;

Emanuela Panke, General Manager of Sicily, European Region of Gastronomy 2025 and President of Iter Vitis Cultural Route of the Council of Europe focussed her attention on environment and sustainability;

Dr. Diane Dodd accompanied the jury to ensure that all financial, governance and legal aspects will ensure a long-term legacy for the region.

About the World/ European Region of Gastronomy Award

The International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism (IGCAT) is the operative institute that oversees the management and coordination of the World and European Region of Gastronomy Award. IGCAT believes that cross-sectoral collaboration will help regions find solutions to current day challenges and thus, the Award is not only given because a region has great gastronomy but because the whole region is working together to create a more sustainable food future. IGCAT encourages not only hospitality industries to participate but everyone across the whole eco-system including public, private, NGO and academic institutions.

The first step in applying for the Award is to bring these different entities together. The next stage is to create a bid book that pulls together as many great initiatives as possible so that people within the region themselves can begin to appreciate how rich their resources are. The third stage is a jury visit that concludes with a recommendation for IGCAT Board and a report to help the region in preparing a successful journey.

Candidate and awarded 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; drive environmental sustainability in tourism, hospitality and agricultural sectors; support balance and sustainable tourism practices; highlight and support expertise from within rural and urban communities, creating connections and sharing good practises; and ultimately they contribute to community health and well-being.