How do you get people to treat food and cuisines as a serious part of the creative economy that supports economic as well as social development in a country? That is what a group of restaurateurs in Turkey have just tried to do by convening a global gastroeconomy summit in Istanbul on 29th March. They brought together speakers from around the world, including me, to talk about how other countries, such as Denmark, Peru and Spain, have made food a key part of their creative economy, to discuss what trends they should consider and guidelines for investment, as well as speakers from around Turkey.
After a packed day of talks, I managed to interview a few of the speakers to get a flavour of what was discussed and some of the major points made at the summit. We met at Mikla, which is run by chef Mehmet Gürs, a speaker at the conference and proponent of the New Anatolian Kitchen – building on the traditional cuisines found around Turkey. It’s listed as the 51st best restaurant in the world – a well deserved view judging by what we ate. It was amidst the chatter of the diners I asked Kaya Demirer, chair of the association putting on the summit why they had done so:
Spain is country that already makes millions from its cuisine and their approach was explained by Inaki Gaztelumendi:
While Spain’s may be a very familiar cuisine around the world Peru’s was not. That, however, is changing as part of a deliberate policy to use food as part of developing the economy, according to Isabella Falco:
In Korea, it has been government support for a key element of Korean cuisine that has helped put its food on the map worldwide explains Dr Jaeho Ha, General Director of the World Institute of Kimchi:
Government legislation can be an essential ingredient in securing the ability of a place to build its reputation for food and wine, as Clay Gregory from the Napa Valley in California explained:
There are, though, some essential things to consider if you are investing in this area as well as one key equation, as investment advisor Sebastian Nokes pointed out:
Food is part of the creative economy and a means to support the sustainable development goals and is supported by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, said Marisa Henderson:
Ismail Erturk, senior lecturer from the University of Manchester explained about gastronomy’s role in the economy.
As I pointed out in my talk, it was 40 years ago this year since I first went to Turkey to help establish an agricultural information centre at the Aegean University. At the time, my wife and I were thrilled to discover the fantastic cuisine that we found in Turkey, which was then a self-sufficient food exporter.
It is good to see that is now being celebrated more but it is important, as several speakers acknowledge, that when people talk about cuisines and gastronomy they do not think it is about fine dining for the rich and take a relatively narrow perspective in thinking about food. Rather, it is about understanding food in all its social, cultural, economic, political, and scientific contexts. It is this approach to gastronomy as a holistic understanding of food and the cultures and habits that surround it they take in the Masters course in gastronomy at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh where I’ve been giving an annual lecture for the past few years (see this blog). As such, my view of a gastro-economy perspective is that it must look at how we create a world in which everyone is well-fed through a diverse range of cuisines with sustainably, fairly produced and healthy food. It was good to hear that in thinking of developing the gastroeconomy in Turkey that is something people are also considering.
UPDATE: You can see the speeches from the day on line here