Glory of gastronomy festivals

Glory of gastronomy festivals

Glory of gastronomy festivals

There is a new fad in the country. Every city tries to organize a gastronomy festival. Food writers, restaurant owners, hoteliers and chefs are going from city to city, one after another, to attend panels and give talks or do workshops. It is like chain smoking. As one finishes, the other starts. The months of September and October seem to be fully booked for people in the food sector. Last week, it was GastroAntepFest in Gaziantep, this week, it is FoodFestAntalya, next week it will be Adana Food Festival. Both were packed with people visiting the food stalls, most flooding in for curiosity and of course to listen to the free concerts in the program.

At these food festivals, it is not only about eating and entertaining. There is always a more serious part, usually a big tent for panels and workshops, our address as food writers and journalists, where we listen to each other’s almost identical speeches, and share our views on how to save our culinary heritage, the problems of the sector, and our laments on how our cuisine is not known and appreciated enough in the world. Sometimes it seems to me that we are just repeating ourselves, a small bunch of the same faces tackling the very same issues over and over again. If there are gastronomy department students among the audience, it makes sense. Another good side of these gatherings is that all the people in the food sector get together to know each other better, and in a way become like a big family, as Hediye Güral of Kütahya Porcelain has put it, and feel connected to the whole community of food people. This creates a synergy among the professionals and sometimes ends up in collaborations on projects.

Another highlight of the festivals is the talks or presentations of local and international chefs. One may wonder whether they are influential or inspiring enough compared to other international chef events, but for me, that bit is the most interesting part of the food events. Sometimes there is an opportunity to reconnect with a chef you have known ages ago, and sometimes to get to know a totally new face you are happy to meet. This time in Antalya I was happy to reconnect with the talented Luigi Taglienti from Italy. I had to opportunity to dine in his now-closed Lume restaurant in Milan and was happy to learn that he opened a new exciting location, IO Ristorante, in Piacenza. He is a true master in using acidity in his dishes, and his concept in Antalya was to create a bite with all truly Mediterranean ingredients typical of both his hometown and Antalya, revisiting the good old Panzanella recipe, using citrus fruits, tomatoes, plums, herbs and stale bread, a totally waste-free, no-cooking sustainable dish. As he uses the sour flavors in such success, I kept my promise of a long time ago, I carried my favorite pomegranate extract Punica to him, in hopes that he would make good use of it.

In those repetitive food events, one really starts to feel like family with some of the participants. Chef Pere Planagumà Sala from Spain is surely one of them for me. We first met at a GastroMasa event in Istanbul, then we kept bumping into each other on several occasions; he almost became a regular in food events organized by Gökmen Sözen. Eventually, with his introduction, last year, I attended the Science & Cooking Congress in Barcelona, which opened a whole new chapter for me. It was a thrilling experience to do a presentation in front of an audience of the highest scientific knowledge, a bit nerve-racking surely, but there is always something interesting from the rich culinary culture of Anatolia to present even to such a high-profile group of people. After the congress, Pere gave us a tour of his hometown Olot, we met with his lovely mother and father, and now I am already thinking of what to bring them as a present next congress. Such connections also end up in possible collaborations, doing joint projects, webinars, sharing ideas and creating new connections. Needless to say, he was in Antalya again, I cannot count how many times he has already been here, but he is sure to come back again and again.

This time in Antalya, I had the chance to know a celebrated chef from Hungary, Jenő Rácz.

He is apparently a celebrity in Hungary, appearing as a judge in the Hungarian version of Master Chef, but he is the humblest person ever, eager to improve himself, to learn and do much better, with a firm ethical standing and a vision for the future. I bet we’ll be hearing more about him also internationally; he is one new name to note down for me, and I hope we see him more often back here. This is the glorious aspect of gastronomy events for me. You never know, chances are high that you meet with exciting people with exciting ideas, with loads of ideas and inspirations, and you feel glorified in having met them. Thanks to Sözen to bring all these exciting people to our country, it was a pleasure as always!

Aylin Öney Tan,