The European Region of Gastronomy is awarded to regions that have joined a Platform and adhere to a philosophy developed by IGCAT (International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism) that ensures cross-sector working in order to support regional development. Unlike other European Awards, only regions that join the Platform can be awarded the title, as to join the Platform requires a series of policy-actions to be in place such as a stakeholder group made up of public, private, third sector and knowledge institutions. By joining a knowledge-exchange Platform of European regions the aim is to further cross-border collaborations, develop shared initiatives to improve food awareness and provide both external and internal regional visibility. Once inside the Platform the regions work towards having the conditions required to hold the title. This can take several years of hard work for example, Sibiu (Romania) joined the Platform in 2014 but will only receive the title in 2019. On the other hand, South Aegean (Greece) joined just last year and will also hold the title in 2019 because it met all the criteria. An award ceremony will be held in Athens 25 January 2017 to give the title, European Region of Gastronomy 2019 to Sibiu and the South Aegean.
The aim is to nurture regions until they are of the category to hold the Award. This is a new model that is working in a positive way, ensuring that tax-payers money is not wasted but capitalised upon. New regions are constantly applying to join the Platform and because of the stringent rules three have already been rejected on the grounds that they were not able to develop a strong enough stakeholder group or commitment to food concerns.
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. Calls are currently open for new regions that hope to bid for the Award in 2020. IGCAT administers the Award and is made up of an international network of experts in the fields of culture, arts, tourism and gastronomy. Collectively, IGCAT experts aim to empower local communities by guiding, facilitating and supporting leaders in cities, regions and cultural projects to understand the potential of their distinct food, culture, arts and sustainable tourism assets.
The Award is new in Europe with 2016 being the first year celebrated by Minho in Portugal and Catalonia in Spain. The positive effects of bringing regional stakeholders together to recognise the potential of cultural and food assets has been palpable in both regions. For the first time different sectors and municipalities are working together to improve food production, supply and service. At the same time, the title that is given by an external jury of experts provides credibility and international visibility. The title is set to grow in prestige with the Award already endorsed by DG Growth, DG Culture and Education and DG Agriculture as well as SEDEC of the European Committee of the Regions.