Fla­vors of the South­ern Aegean

Greek is­land clus­ter clinches ti­tle of Euro­pean Re­gion of Gas­tron­omy for 2019

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY EMILIOS HARBIS

Ask the av­er­age North­ern Euro­pean why they come on hol­i­day to Greece and they’ll likely men­tion three things: sun, sea and good food. It’s no se­cret that Greece, and es­pe­cially its is­lands with their in­no­va­tive cui­sine, can of­fer visi­tors me­morable gas­tro­nomic ex­pe­ri­ences.

How­ever, in tourism as in cook­ing, good in­gre­di­ents alone are not enough for suc­cess. Knowl­edge, ef­fec­tive pro­mo­tion, im­proved prac­tices and im­proved prod­ucts are key to win­ning the mar­ket when it comes to the­matic tourism. In this re­gard, the South­ern Aegean re­gion re­cently be­ing named Euro­pean Re­gion of Gas­tron­omy 2019 for its com­mit­ment to food and cul­tural di­ver­sity is par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant.

The Euro­pean Re­gion of Gas­tron­omy plat­form and award, or­ga­nized by the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Gas­tron­omy, Cul­ture, Arts and Tourism (IGCAT) with the sup­port of Euro­pean in­sti­tu­tions, 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. Ac­cord­ing to the award’s web­site, their phi­los­o­phy cen­ters around the be­lief that “re­gions play a key role in the gas­tro­nomic value chain, from agri­cul­tural food pro­duc­tion to food pro­cess­ing, pro­vid­ing gas­tro­nomic ex­pe­ri­ences and hos­pi­tal­ity in ho­tels and restau­rants, and at­tract­ing visi­tors with re­gional gas­tron­omy prod­ucts.”

“Our pe­riph­eral re­gions are re­spon­si­ble for around a third of the coun­try’s tourism-based ac­tiv­ity. Tourism gen­er­ates jobs and in­comes and the culi­nary di­men­sion is as im­por­tant as any other,” said South­ern Aegean Re­gional Gov­er­nor Gior­gos Had­ji­markos, who spear­headed the ef­forts that re­sulted in the award, which was pre­sented dur­ing a spe­cial cer­e­mony at the Ho­tel Grande Bre­tagne in Athens last month.

“The South­ern Aegean is now in­cluded among Euro­pean re­gions with long tra­di­tions in gas­tron­omy. This dis­tinc­tion for our re­gion is our outward-look- ing and op­ti­mistic an­swer to a dif­fi­cult pe­riod for our coun­try. The is­lands of the South­ern Aegean, at the forefront of Greek tourism, are the best rep­re­sen­ta­tives for sup­port­ing the ti­tle of Euro­pean Re­gion of Gas­tron­omy,” he con­tin­ued. Had­ji­markos made spe­cial men­tion of the peo­ple on the is­lands who deal with daily food pro­duc­tion. It is these peo­ple, he said, who “when oth­ers looked to the west, re­mained loyal to the tra­di­tional prod­ucts and prac­tices that make our coun­try unique.” The re­gion’s pro­gram is ti­tled “Taste the Sea­sons.”

The con­tem­po­rary chal­lenge which the Euro­pean Re­gion of Gas­tron­omy pro­gram ad­dresses is that of the­matic tourism. This was also re­it­er­ated by IGCAT, which de­scribed the South­ern Aegean’s pro­gram as ex­tremely promis­ing. This promis­ing po­ten­tial is based on a num­ber of fac­tors: the es­tab­lish­ment of the south­ern Aegean as a gas­tro­nomic des­ti­na­tion, com­bined with the many cel­e­bra­tions and fes­ti­vals that take place even on the small­est is­lands, the ex­ten­sion of the tourism sea­son, the pro­mo­tion of unique lo­cal prod­ucts, and the sys­tem­atic train­ing of lo­cal groups based on the prin­ci­ples of qual­ity and sus­tain­able culi­nary de­vel­op­ment.

Dur­ing a speech at the cer­e­mony, Tourism Min­is­ter Elena Koun­toura said that as cru­cial as com­pet­i­tive­ness and en­trepreneur­ship are for this en­deavor, the con­cept of sus­tain­abil­ity is per­haps in this case even more im­por­tant. Af­ter all, the heart of the Aegean’s gas­tro­nomic iden­tity is sim­ple, nat­u­ral foods pro­duced on a small scale, which could com­pletely lose its value if mass-pro­duced with­out the ap­pro­pri­ate qual­i­ta­tive mea­sures.

That was aptly summed up in Had­ji­markos’s speech: “A dish that leaves the kitchen in­cludes, among oth­ers, cul­ture, his­tory, hu­man ef­fort and pride.”

A fish­er­man at work on Ka­lym­nos. In tourism as in cook­ing, good in­gre­di­ents alone are not enough for suc­cess. Knowl­edge, strong pro­mo­tion, im­proved prac­tices and prod­ucts are key to win­ning the mar­ket when it comes to the­matic tourism.

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