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350 industry experts and 22 European countries: the third impressive edition of Sauce culinary conference, attracted like-minded food enthusiasts from around the world to Estonia to engage in the annual inspiring industry forum.
Chefs, artisans, farmers, sommeliers, managers, entrepreneurs, visionaries, service supernaturals, commercial wizards, food geeks and wine lovers could all be found gathered in most northerly of the three Baltic states on 11 September, united by the desire to work towards a “a better future built around food, " the ethos of SAUCE. Located in Tartu, Estonia’s oldest city, at the newly built Estonian National Museum (Eesti Rahva Museum), the great minds in the industry used the occasion to voice their opinions about food and hospitality.
The topic up for debate this year was: “The Next Course: How to serve the future”. As chefs will ‘hold significant influence to effect change’ highlighted Pauliina Pirkola – founder, director and self-proclaimed "Mother of Sauce" the topic resonated with the enthusiastic crowd.
Here are five highlights from this edition of the SAUCE food forum, designed to inspire chefs and other food industry professionals.
Estonia: A Unique interpretation of Nordic
Estonia has become a culinary destination in its own right and in a relatively short period of time, and yet it has retained its own culture of gastronomy. While Estonia identifies as a Nordic country, even being included in the White Guide, Mattias Kroon – journalist and father of the Nordic Food Manifesto – and speaker at the future of food tourism conference, noted that Estonia has diversified from the traditional Nordic Food Movement, forging its own, new identity.
Estonia is a country deeply devoted to nature, that encapsulates a variety of cuisines and influences which are both respected and practiced by Estonians at home or reinterpreted in their restaurants. From Nordic style coastal cuisine, to the Southeasterly Russian influenced parts; this unique combination creates something new and unique.
A Meal with a Backstory
'(People) want a backstory with their meal, something that tells them about the culture’, reflected Justin Bergman, food journalist and Monocle contributor. For both hotels and restaurants, the importance of offering people the possibility to live an “experience” through food, design, attractions, etc became clear.
The role of design will also change, from purely aesthetic to more performative and experiential. The Icelandic IOn hotel, was given as an example, where owner Sigurlaug Sverisdottir, has turned a remote location into a destination in itself by using design as a tool.
Sustainability: Positive Change in the community
Although sustainability is an overused word in the language of gastronomy, it is and will continue to be, crucial for all food businesses. Both Amit Ashkenazy and Tzruya Calvão Chebach from Sustainability Foresight highlighted that the best way to approach sustainability is through consultation with experts and through a global approach to creating positive change in the community.
Food businesses require compliance at the level of shopping, cooking and waste production. While, specialists can help restaurateurs to find advanced sustainable solutions as well as helping with their implementation.
Lessons from indigenous food cultures can spark innovation in modern kitchens. This was the experience echoed by Mehmet Gurs, the half Finnish, half Turkish chef-entrepreneur of Mikla — no.51 on list of World’s Best Restaurants - on a mission to build a database of Turkey’s indigenous products and producers. Gurs has thought beyond seasonality and more towards geographical diversity. Using the paradox of ‘in season’ he took the example of a tomato explaining that in the Nordic countries a tomato will never taste as good as one grown in Southern countries, even if it is in season; in the north it will never become sweeter, due to insufficient sun.
Meanwhile, Georgian chef Tekuna Gachechiladze innovates to keep tradition alive in her Culinarium restaurant in the capital city of Tbilisi. She battles with a misunderstanding of traditions in a country that boasts one of the world’s oldest food cultures. She creates a future for traditional food by creating fusion food. Putting unusual consideration into functionality and people’s habits, like serving khinkali gyozas, and changing the form of traditional food adapted to standing banquets or acknowledging the popularity of healthy eating.
Millennials who grew up in a socially networked world are seen to possess unrealistic expectations and hence are more prone to job-hopping.
When Kai Schukowski, the youngest GM in the history of Kempinski brand, took to the stage, he reported that social media has become the new recruitment platform in the search for talent.
Work experience is now second to personality, making it the no.1 sought attribute. To retain idealistic job hoppers for a while, employers should give them a ‘Google map’ for their career; guide step by step in the path of self-advancement. They should invite them on a ‘personal journey, where the industry can empower them to succeed also in their personal lives’.