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CAW Diary


World Heritage Cusine Summit

Firstly, I would like to thank you and the CAW for giving Chris and I the opportunity to represent Wales and the CAW at this ground- breaking event. We threw ourselves into the action with enthusiasm and gusto and both feel we have learned and contributed in no small measure. May I also take this opportunity to commend Chris, his attitude and dedication were exemplary, particularly his work with the young students assigned to us in sometimes testing situations. It was a pleasure to work alongside him.

The concept of the Summit was a very bold one, following on from the WACS decision to protect and preserve the heritage cuisines of the world- no small undertaking in itself! Over 40 countries, and all the regions of India, took part in a gastronomic and cultural ‘smorgasbord’ of staggering variety. It is perhaps worthy of note that we were the only Home Nation to participate, which definitely has gained us 'friends at court’ and demonstrated once again how Wales continues to punch well above its weight in the culinary field. It is important that we continue to work towards the promotion of the food and drink of Wales by supporting such initiatives as the Summit and making theworld aware of the quality and variety of produce we have to offer.

 To give a brief synopsis, after a welcome supper of Punjabi street food (Kebabs and breads as it was modestly titled) on arrival evening, the Summit proper began- very early!- on Thursday with an introduction to the intricacies of turban tying in preparation to a visit to the breathtaking Golden Temple in Amritsar, a truly humbling experience, especially the Langar kitchen, which feeds around 100, 000 visitors PER DAY absolutely free, with an army of volunteers cooking and serving a delicious vegetarian meal to all (including some hungry chefs!) from huge vats and hotplates at the back of the room.Wow!

We then travelled to the historic surroundings of the Gobindagarh fort, in the city, and in an area the size of about four football pitches at the fort’s centre the opening ceremony began, Chef Manjit Singh Gill, the creator of the event and Chef Thomas Gugler, current WACS President, bade us welcome, and introduced the team, sponsors and supporters vital to such a huge event. It was impressive to note the enthusiastic backing of the Punjab region and their wholehearted commitment to the success of the event, determined as they are to see a Punjab Culinary Institute leading the way in gastronomic terms.

Formalities over, the summit began two and a half action packed days of cooking and discussions - about food, of course! All panel discussions were broadcast throughout the fort, so that everyone could listen or participate in subjects that interested them. Each country presented a Masterclass for one hour, at one of the four purpose built kitchens, which resulted in a staggering variety of tastes and textures- our contribution was a three course meal, a starter of Anglesey eggs, from the Plas heritage strand of our history, a lamb cawl, and accompanying historical context, dating back to the beginning of our culinary history, and Welshcakes, using the traditional ‘planc’ or bakestone (we also made bara planc to accompany the Cawl) We were also fortunate to be selected to participate in the World Kitchen, helping to feed some of the many hungry mouths around, and our dish of lamb faggots, mash and peas, with a traditional onion gravy was a total sell- out! It was impossible, of course, to see every dish displayed, but of particular note were a Croatian duck dish, some wonderful Bengali street food, team Assam, and an incredible smoked pork and yam leaf dish with what was possibly the hottest chilli samba I have ever eaten- I was still smouldering several hours later! Each evening our host hotels (we were based at the Hyatt International) took it in turn to regale us with a feast of Punjabi dishes, some of which were familiar (Butter Chicken) and some definitely not (Amritsari Dhal) My culinary education has certainly been broadened- as has my waistline!! Sunday afternoon saw proceedings brought to a close with a Masterclass by Chef Gill himself, who made a simple dish of corn fritters taste absolutely superb, and demonstrating a knife speed that would put many (far) younger chefs to shame. Then the closing ceremony proper, every Chef and helper present were awarded a certificate and commemorative gold medal - speeches and group photographs followed. After a farewell dinner in an opulent traditional Punjabi restaurant, with Bhangra dancing until the small hours, it was two tired but inspired Welsh Chefs blearily boarding the Air India Dreamliner for home the next morning- thank you, India, and Namaste!

Inevitably, given the size of the event and the fact it was the first of its kind, there were a few teething problems, schedules and timings had constantly to be adjusted- often on an hourly basis, but lessons are learned, and it is intended this will be the first of many, improving as we go along, but that said, India welcomed us with open arms and could not have been more hospitable, and it would be a pleasure to return and participate in future events for the CAW and Wales. Culinary traditions and Heritage are an integral part of any country’s culture and history, and need to be preserved by events such as this summit, a great WACS initiative for the future, and one we should definitely support. The very fact that such a small country as Wales took part, not to mention the quality of our dishes and culinary heritage, was an eye-opener to many in WACS and India, and there is certainly an opportunity to develop this further, perhaps with a tourism link-in, at future summits, it has been an immense learning experience for Chris and I, but we definitely feel it has been reciprocated, many useful contacts and friendships have been forged, and the Welsh flag well and truly flown! Thank you again for giving us the opportunity to represent our country and Association, we hope we did you proud.

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By Gareth Johns

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