Argentina is calling

CocinAR is the name of the government’s programme to transform the Latin country into a culinary destination

05-12-2016

Some invitations you’d rather not receive. Some others have the only fault of not lasting months. This belongs to the latter kind: Argentina, first Bariloche in Patagonia, then the capital Buenos Aires. I was invited, and this is a particularly important detail thinking of Italy, by the Ministerio de Turismo de la Nacion, in the two hundred years’ anniversary of the declaration of independence. Translating and summing up: «We are delighted to invite you to a press tour of the capital and San Carlos de Bariloche, with the goal of making you discover various experiences connected with Argentinian gastronomy. This event is part of the action plan of CocinAR dedicated to culinary tourism, promoted by the ministry of tourism to give value to the cultural gastronomic heritage of Argentina and to reach a prominent place in the international scene». Signed Josè Gustavo Santos, minister of tourism.

Cocina + Argentina = CocinAR. Simple, clear, effective. We can only learn. Mariangeles Samamé, one of the officials who’s managing the project and is working really hard these days so that everything works perfectly said: «The programme took form earlier in January, inspired both by the fact that when people abroad think of our food, they think of wine and meat, and it’s limiting, and by the certainty that cooking is a value embracing the entire country.

A souvenir photo in Bariloche, Patagonia, at the end of an extraordinary dinner at Cassis, the restaurant of Marianna Muller, the lady on the right. In the middle, Argentinian tourism minister José Gustavo Santos and to the left Maurizio Giovanini, Argentinian chef living and working in Marbella, Spain. His restaurant is called Messina as a tribute to the Sicilian roots of his wife

A souvenir photo in Bariloche, Patagonia, at the end of an extraordinary dinner at Cassis, the restaurant of Marianna Muller, the lady on the right. In the middle, Argentinian tourism minister José Gustavo Santos and to the left Maurizio Giovanini, Argentinian chef living and working in Marbella, Spain. His restaurant is called Messina as a tribute to the Sicilian roots of his wife

If you choose to visit the Iguazù waterfalls or delight yourself in the spectacular beauty of Bariloche, you have to go there. Instead, the quality of food and wine is a value embracing the entire nation. You can eat good and original food in every region and province».

Argentinians have a successful example very close to home, namely Peru. The minister said: «We’re launching a close collaboration with the Peruvian government. Our countries complement each other, facing two different oceans. Their cuisine is more focused on seafood, ours on meat, with an incredible and different biodiversity. And for both there’s the homeland model of Spain. The revolution launched by Adrià, Andoni, Arzak and the like was essential for our chefs. Before, they would go to France but then they had to cook French. The French were not interested in giving strength to a cooking other than theirs. Adrià instead said that once one had mastered the techniques, they all had to do their own cuisine, possibly at home».

And now the government in a nation full of economic problems considers that input, convinced that good food generates jobs in the entire supply chain, starting from fields and breeding farms. And this invitation is a just one step in a long, mutual walk. We’re four, each with a precise and logic motivation, starting from journalist José Carlos Capel, who’s worked for 30 years at El Pais, the master of ceremonies at Madrid Fusion, launched in 2003. In Latin America this is a real point of reference.

It was Capel who recalled: «In 2004 I asked Gaston Acurio, a proud indigenous look, to speak about ceviche. Nobody paid attention but behind him there was the Peruvian government, which had its development plans». And now the Argentinian government has set for itself the same goal. Gustavo Santos said about himself: «I’m the minister of happiness. What’s more beautiful than working with restaurants and producers in terms of economics?».

Then there’s journalist Maria Julia Perez, chef Mauricio Giovanini and myself. Two Spanish passports and two Italian ones as Mauricio, like half of the Argentinian population, 25 millions out of 41, has Italian origins and two passports. Born in Latin American Cordova, he owns a restaurant in Marbella, in Andalusia. He named it Messina as a tribute to his wife, whose grandparents came from the Strait, while his grandparents came from Catania. Most of all, Mauricio is the world ambassador of the CocinAR project. And in January Argentina will be the Guest Nation at Madrid Fusion 2017.

1. To be continued


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