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Message from WACS President
Four Countries: One Language
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
After all the travelling I have done, I still find it remarkable when I travel anywhere in the world and meet chefs, that communication is possible even when we don’t speak the same language. It seems that, when it comes to food, and especially cooking, everything is possible.
I just arrived home after two weeks of travelling which I started by spending a day in Frankfurt because I had to wait between flights. I spent the day learning about this town, eating Frankfurters and tasted a good German beer. I was on my way to Astana in Kazakhstan, a new WACS member. I would take part in the first International Festival of National Kitchens “Kazakhstan Sinegorye – 2008” and competition, three hundred kilometres away from the capital, resort named Burabai, “the Kazakhstani Switzerland” set in a beautiful natural forest area.
Elena Maschinskaya, the President of the Association of Cookery Experts of the Republic of Kazakhstan, met me at the airport and told me many things about the Capital City. Astana has been the capital city of Kazakhstan since 1997, when the status of capital city was moved from Almaty to Akmola which was renamed Astana (in Kazak this means Capital City). Today, Astana is a very modern city, the political and cultural centre of Kazakhstan. One thing I noticed right away is that it was extremely clean and that the people were very kind.
Upon reaching the resort, we started with a lunch which was a good representation of the Kazakhstani traditional food; specifically horse meat with camel and horse milk to drink. Coming from Iceland, a country where horse is a normal item on the grocery store shelf, I was not intimidated, but the milks were very strong and special, and something I do not have acquired the taste for yet. I do however recommend everyone to give it a try if you get the opportunity. That night, we had a press conference with the organiser of the International Film Festival “Eurasia” where Kazakhstani chefs had made a display out of sugar for all the films.
After spending four days in Kazakhstan, meeting ministers and seeing young people from Russia, Serbia, Azerbaijan and, of course, Kazakhstan showing their skills, I have to say that there are some very promising things coming from this part of the world. They show in their work unique qualities that are specific to this region as they respect the tradition very much. And as they open up to the international food scene, I see only great potential. I also see this as an opportunity for our Train-the-Trainer program as well as a great place to establish culinary schools. Seventy million people live in Kazakhstan and they are growing and developing quickly. After taking a look at a few restaurants in Astana , I saw that they were all new, with very well set up kitchens but the country is in need, as in many other countries, of professional chefs.
I have to admit, when I was first invited to Kazakhstan, I had no idea what to expect, but I came back with a very good impression of it and look forward to going there again to see more, and I urge anyone that wants an opportunity to teach, learn and share knowledge with other chefs to visit this country.
When I was looking at one of the monuments in Astana, I met a very nice lady from the USA that had roots from Siberia. She is a doctor specialized in cancer but her hobby is to write recipes for the Russian speaking people living in America. I am going to put her email in this article, if anyone is interested in sending her recipes, especially from Russia and other former USSR countries. This was again a good lesson to me showing me how great of a profession we have. Out there we have so many hobby “chefs” and foodies, that are all passionate and promoting what we do every day.
From Kazakhstan, I went straight to Innsbruck in Austria where I took part in judging “The Big Cooking Contest 2008”, a competition endorsed by WACS. Twenty-four young teams from around Central Europe came to compete for three days, and they made an impression, not only on the jury but on everyone watching them. The skills these young chefs showed us under high stress were unbelievable. The cooking time was 30 minutes and everyone made it on time, the food was of very high level and each and every one of the competitors would have got a job on the spot if scouts had been looking for them as you see in football.
I don’t recall ever seeing such well organized teams in kitchen. The spaces were spotless, the work well planned and all this in very short time. I will be watching out for these young chefs in the global competitions in the near future!
There is no good competition without a good team of organizers behind it. Frank Josephaus and his team had everything under control every step of the way. Guys, you showed me and Reinhold Metz, the WACS Continental Director for Central Europe, who was judging with me, how to run a competition. Like I said, this is what should be going on everywhere around the world.
From Austria I flew to Oslo in Norway where I had dinner with the Director of Figgjo, a porcelain company from Norway and we used this opportunity to sign a four year Sponsors contract. So, I am very happy to welcome Figgjo into WACS as a partner. I have known this company for many years and they are making first class products, they also have amazing staff that are all very dedicated to their work. We will be issuing a press release on the website shortly with more information but I want you to welcome Figgjo into our Family and stay in contact with them anytime you need assistance with porcelain. Their website is www.figgjo.no.
Home: There is no place like home.It is great to lay in your own bath after such a long trip like this and go back to your wife’s or partner’s home cooking (how many chefs cook at home?!). But it will only last for a week as I will be on the move again from the 28th of September and until then have many emails to answer and work to do.
Friends around the world, I look forward to seeing many of you in Erfurt. Please remember to look for the WACS stand, where you will find many of the board members, including myself as well as some of the committee chairmen and members. This is your opportunity to meet us all and talk with us directly.
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