Collaboration With Spain Yielding Mutual Benefit – NIHOTOUR

Paris 2024 Olympic

When the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) conceptualiSed the Gastronomy Fair, its aim was threefold: to bridge the knowledge gap amongst Nigerian chefs about food tourism and gastronomy, address the dearth of skilled culinary personnel in Nigeria, as well as encourage the exchange of best global practices betwixt Nigerian chefs and their foreign counterparts. This is all geared towards the positioning of Nigeria as a food tourism destination.

Gastronomy Fair partnership with the Spanish Embassy Nigeria, which has seen the return of Madrid’s best chef, Alex Marugan first in 2023 and 2024, host masterclasses on Spanish cuisines and international food practices, is one of the agency’s efforts to promote food tourism in Nigeria.

And thus far, the collaboration seems a mutual success for both sides.

For one, the partnership has seen the masterclass expand from Abuja in 2023, to include training of chefs in Lagos this year. Secondly, it is becoming an eye opener for local chefs on the importance of food presentation as a means of improving food tourism. In fact, it is brining to their attention the possibility of cooking without artificial ingredients/condiments. And finally, is a leeway to other collaboration in the tourism sector between both countries.

“For me, the catch is what we can pick from them in food presentation. What we noticed about our Nigerian chefs from their counterparts in other parts of the world is the difference in presentation. Our cuisines are unique, but the way we present them is often not at par with global standards of food presentation at international hotels. The eyes eat before the mouth. If we want foreign tourists to taste our food but don’t take the time to present them in a way that is comely, they may not find it engaging, much less interesting to taste it,” said NIHOTOUR Public Relations Officer, Joesef Karim.

He noted that the agency’s expectation is to see a cascade of knowledge gained from the masterclass by the 36 participating local chefs trickle to their peers and students.

For the NIHOTOUR Abuja Campus, Head of Hospitality Management, Foluke Okoroma, besides learning new Spanish cuisines comprising – Croquetta, Salpicon (Civiled salad), Green Sauce with a lot of Parsley, the main menu – Sticky rice with Duck, and the dessert Dorika, the key takeaway is the Spaniard’s skill for seasoning their food using natural spices and coloring. No artificial colouring or ingredients like MSGs. Skills, she said when inputted can make for healthier Nigerian dishes.

“There was virtually no use of chemical seasoning, no seasoning cubes at all, yet the dishes came out delicious. We can incorporate it into our dishes.

Speaking of his return to the Gastronomy Fair, Chef Marugan emphasized local chefs’ openness to learning and improving their skills.

“They are interested in learning how to cook, and to know more gastronomy cultures. I think this the start of a new way of learning and improvement, not just for the old cuisines, but also conceptualizing new ideas.”

“Nigerian chefs here remind me why I started cooking. Because in Spain, I am so focused on learning that I forget why I became a chef. That is because we are facing really hard competition with the Michelin guidelines, which oftentimes makes us forget why we are there. They give me new perception of everything and help me remember why I started, and the energy I started with.”

Beyond the exchange of global best practices and improvement of existing cuisines via such exchanges at the fair, is there a possibility for creating new dish – that is a fusion of Spanish and Nigerian cuisine?

Chef Marugan said “why not?”. “Fusion is good. It opens up new ways always. I don’t know anyone making a fusion of Nigeria and Spanish cuisines. I know a lot of fusion cuisine but not this. But why not? Perhaps Nigerian chefs can learn about Spanish dishes and incorporate them to theirs, and become popular for it here.

“We know with the harsh economic times in the country, a lot of people lack the opportunity to travel to try new things. Through this partnership, we hope to explore other countries and cultures through food, and other festivals that come around,” said Marketing Executive, Abuja Continental Hotel, Chidimma Otu.

 

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