Tasty Le­banon: The Lebanese gov­ern­ment's first gas­trodiplo­matic ini­tia­tive

Hospitality News Middle East - - CONTENTS -

With va­ca­tion sea­son in full swing, Na­tional Geo­graphic re­cently ear­marked Le­banon as a must-visit des­ti­na­tion for the sum­mer of 2018, not for its land­marks and sites, but rather the food. HN spoke to the stake­hold­ers who were in­volved in achiev­ing this suc­cess for the na­tion, which was the only Mid­dle Eastern coun­try to land a cov­eted spot on the net­work’s pres­ti­gious list The Lebanese gov­ern­ment is pur­su­ing its first gas­tro-diplo­matic ini­tia­tive un­der the ban­ner Tasty Le­banon, as part of its ef­forts to raise na­tional brand aware­ness, en­cour­age tourism and in­crease eco­nomic in­vest­ment and trade through ex­ports of lo­cal prod­ucts to new for­eign mar­kets. The project was launched dur­ing the Lebanese Di­as­pora En­ergy Sum­mit of 2018, in the pres­ence of the min­istries in­volved and par­ties that signed a let­ter of in­tent in that re­gard.

Rasha El Had­dad, diplo­mat at the Lebanese Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and Em­i­grants, who is over­see­ing the project, has pre­pared a work-plan and cre­ated a na­tional com­mit­tee com­posed of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Min­istries of Tourism, Culture, In­dus­try, Agri­cul­ture, Econ­omy and Trade, and the Syndicate of Own­ers of Restau­rants, Cafés, Night-clubs & Pas­tries, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Lebanese In­dus­tri­al­ists, and the Syndicate of Lebanese Food In­dus­tri­al­ists.

What was be­hind the de­ci­sion to in­clude th­ese en­ti­ties and who else will be in­volved?

To make this pri­vate-pub­lic ini­tia­tive work, we needed to in­volve ev­ery party con­cerned or risk fail­ure. We took the emo­tional as­pect of food and rec­og­nized how tightly in­ter­linked it is with place and time. We then in­vested in that spe­cial con­nec­tion, thereby in­di­rectly pro­mot­ing gas­tro­nomic tourism. Fur­ther­more, the back­ing we have from all our em­bassies strength­ens this cause and en­sures our mes­sage is clearly and ac­cu­rately com­mu­ni­cated. We are also re­ly­ing on the pri­vate sec­tor to bet­ter un­der­stand how to over­come the nu­mer­ous chal­lenges faced. Most im­por­tant are our chefs, Le­banon’s brand am­bas­sadors, with­out whom none of this would have been pos­si­ble to be­gin with.

Can you tell us about some of the other strate­gies in the pipeline?

We are work­ing to­ward ac­cred­it­ing in­ter­na­tional Lebanese restau­rants with a badge of au­then­tic­ity to help din­ers iden­tify th­ese as gen­uine es­tab­lish­ments. The em­blem awarded will be based on cri­te­ria cre­ated by the Lebanese chefs and the Syndicate of Own­ers of Restau­rants, Cafés, Night-clubs & Pas­tries to en­sure all par­ties con­cerned are in to­tal agree­ment. Another idea we are con­tem­plat­ing is set­ting up an ex­change pro­gram be­tween our ex­ist­ing culi­nary schools and those abroad. This will en­sure that the vis­it­ing chefs gain valu­able in­sight into the in­gre­di­ents used to dis­cover what sets th­ese prod­ucts apart from oth­ers found abroad. A third ini­tia­tive is Lebanese Food Week, to be held in all the coun­tries in which we have em­bassies. This will in­clude a food mar­ket where vis­i­tors get to pro­cure au­then­tic prod­ucts, which will go a long way in re-ed­u­cat­ing all par­ties con­cerned. That is the main idea be­hind the en­tire ini­tia­tive. In line with that, I am fi­nal­iz­ing a book­let writ­ten specif­i­cally for our em­bassies, out­lin­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of gas­trodiplo­matic events. We are cre­at­ing another book­let for the gen­eral pub­lic that will be made avail­able through our em­bassies, con­tain­ing a list of restau­rants en­dorsed by the Lebanese gov­ern­ment. If we main­tain this mo­men­tum, not only will more restau­rants open abroad, but our chefs will fi­nally be awarded the recog­ni­tion they truly de­serve and, by rec­i­proc­ity, Le­banon.

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