Jointly nominated to receive the European Region of Gastronomy 2019 award by an independent jury, Sibiu (Romania) and South Aegean (Greece) received the 2019 title for their commitment to food and cultural diversity. A special Ceremony took place on 25 January 2017 at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens, Greece in front of the distinguished guests, colleagues and media.
The Master of Ceremonies was the acclaimed food journalist George Papachristos, who gave the floor to the Governor of the South Aegean, George Hatzimarkos, who welcomed everyone to the event hosted by the region.
Set against a background of moving images from the currently nine European Regions of Gastronomy (for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), IGCAT’s President, Dr. Diane Dodd briefly illustrated the importance of the European Region of Gastronomy Award as a tool to support development in Europe’s regions and build awareness of the importance of food and cultural diversity for sustainable growth.
The South Aegean celebrity chef and European Region of Gastronomy Ambassador for the South Aegean 2019 candidature, Argyro Barbarigou then talked about South Aegean gastronomy referring to it as a treasure. She stressed the need to promote Mediterranean cuisine, which she praised for being the richest and most ancient cuisine in the world, as well as a strong ally for a healthier and longer life.
Silvia Draghi, European Commission – DG Growth was asked to Award the regions, together with IGCAT’s President and the President of the jury, Blanca Cros. In her closing words, Silvia Draghi congratulated Sibiu and South Aegean for their successful bids to host the title in 2019, as well as all the regions and IGCAT for the significant work carried out so far. She claimed to be positively impressed by the collaboration efforts and knowledge-sharing systems adopted by the regions and noted the importance to Europe of gastronomy as a niche tourism sector. She concluded that the European Commission has a lot to learn from the Regions of Gastronomy initiative when it comes to cater for the needs of local populations and in facing current challenges.
Daniela Cimpean, President of the Sibiu County Council, and George Hatzimarkos delivered the respective regions’ acceptance speeches. President Cimpean referred to the European Region of Gastronomy Award as a turning point that will position Sibiu region on the tourist map as a cultural and food destination in Europe. She stressed the importance of local gastronomy that, besides representing a significant part of the regional culture, acts also as a link between its past, present and future, and its multiple cultural realities, as the title Sibiu richness and legendary tastes suggests.
Governor George Hatzimarkos claimed that the South Aegean’s European Region of Gastronomy programme is the outcome of a strong collaborative effort thanks to which the region has identified effective strategies to cope with the challenges it is facing today. According to his words, the project allows to meet the real needs of local people by taking advantage of Greek creativity and provides opportunities for regional growth and reward for primary sector workers and local SMEs offering tourism services. By means of a holistic approach that involves stakeholders from all sectors and all islands, the South Aegean Taste the Seasons programme is expected to create a renewed relationship with its guests.
The event continued with an intervention of Greek Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura, who, after praising South Aegean and Sibiu for obtaining the award, identified gastronomy as a powerful competitive edge to capitalise on in order to achieve greater sustainability in tourism by extending the tourist season. She reconfirmed the Ministry of Tourism’s support to the initiative, which she claimed to have great significance for Greece and its tourism industry as a whole.
A presentation followed of the two 2019 European Regions of Gastronomy programmes.
Sibiu Richness and Legendary Tastes project was introduced by Astrid Foder, Mayor of Sibiu, andChristine Thellmann, Vice-Mayor of Medias, while an overview of South Aegean’s Taste the Seasons programme was offered by Filimon Zannetidis, Vice-Governor of South Aegean and Heidi Lazani, Head of the programme’s Executive Committee.
The Regions of Gastronomy Platform and the European Region of Gastronomy Award aim to contribute to better quality of life in European and world regions, by highlighting distinctive food cultures, educating for better health and sustainability and stimulating culinary innovation.
IGCAT – International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts, and Tourism – organises the award with the support of European institutions. IGCAT is an international interdisciplinary network of experts aiming to empower and facilitate local communities to realise the potential of their distinct food, culture, arts, sustainable tourism, and other local resources.