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The global “gluttony fest”. St. Petersburg short-listed to host the worldwide gastronomic summit in 2019

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St. Petersburg has been shortlisted to host the worldwide gastronomic summit. The global “gluttony fest” is to be held in 2019. Alexey Mikhalev studied the menu of the contestant for the title of the world’s culinary capital.

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Yuriy Zinchuk, host: “When people talk of touristic attractiveness of St. Petersburg, they usually mean its architecture, its unique outlook. But is this as far as the tourist potential goes?

Here’s one brand new direction discussed now both by the authorities and experts. St. Petersburg may add a new title to its extensive collection such as the Northern Capital, the Naval-Military capital, the cultural capital. It may also become the culinary capital. And if European gastronomic tourism means you can go for oysters to Nantes or travel to Valencia for their Paella, then Russia doesn’t offer such opportunities

That’s because the most delicious cucumbers are grown in Novogorodskaya region, apricots in Dagestan, lamb in Khakassia. It would have been reasonable to deliver all these delicacies to one city – which could attract thousands of gourmets from across the globe.

Even more so that St. Petersburg is now on the list of three cities to host the worldwide gastronomic summit in 2019. Moreover, many are now so concerned with the disappearance of jamon and fois-grois from the shelves. Even those who have never tried them, they know of these delicacies. What they don’t know is that regions of Russia produce unique delicacies of their own – for hundreds of years – but they are not known outside of those regions.

Our observer Alexey Mikhalev found out that St. Petersburg can literally breathe a second life into these products.

Few actually praised the gastronomic success of St. Petersburg. It has been overshadowed by the hype surrounding the 2018 World Cup. That’s despite food is seemingly more important than football.

Inna Shalyto, chairman of tourism development committee of St. Petersburg administration: “Top 3 is a great result. But we will fight for the 1st place. This is a global thing”

St. Petersburg’s chances are high in this battle. If Peru’s Lima can become the gastronomic capital, then the Museum-City definitely has an advantage thanks to its beauty. The beauty which the city’s cuisine is stemming from.

Sergey Gutsait, restaurateur: “Like Chekhov said – take a lively salmon, and put it into milk. They’ll swim in the milk for day, these bastards, and then be baked in a sour cream. Then, brother, there’s no need for pineapples. This is the real Russian cuisine”

The fact is that Russian cuisine is as limitless as Russia itself. One-seventh of the landmass, 12 seas, 120 thousand rivers, two million fresh and salt water lakes. A giant store room which keeps 1000 species of fish and shellfish, 320 species of animals, 730 species of birds, 3000 plants, berries, herbs and nuts, 300 types of edible mushrooms.

Andrey Ushkaov, restaurateur: “For me – everything on the territory of the Russian Federation is Russian cuisine. Caucasian cuisine is also Russian”

Andrey Ushakov runs a non-usual format of gastronomic atelier-restaurant, where one can get culinary lessons.

It turned out that there is a demand for studying Russian cuisine. Hundreds of Swedes and Norwegians have flocked to St. Petersburg with this mission. They combine culinary studies with visits to the Hermitage.

Andrey Ushkaov, restaurateur: “Scandinavians have proved to be the most active. They are people in search. The French and the Americans are less interested. They are people of stereotypes”

To counter fast-food and “on-the-go” vendors, a new movement is gathering strength in the world – Slow Food. Its not about not having a meal on the go. The main thing is to cook slowly and thoroughly, like back in the good old times. And, most necessarily, from domestic products.

Alyona Melnikova, culinary activist: “Around 50 types of fish live in the Ladoga lake, but we don’t even know about this”

The list of what we don’t know sounds like sweet music – red cottage cheese, piquant kazylyk, Dagestani urbech. But does anybody recall the taste of Vologda butter, which seems to be on everyone’s minds? But there are also Siberian sturgeons, Bashkir goose jerky, muksun, omul, nelma, seld zalom, Kholyni cucumbers, Belevskaya marshmallows, Black Sea barabulka, white apricots, Kobyaskiy carp. 

Ilya Lazerson, president of Chefs Guild: “We have those products. Why were they delivered during the Tsar times, but cannot be delivered now? Why not breathing a second life into them?”

If the place of the culinary capital is vacant, there are no obstacles to take it, by creating conditions for genuine gastronomic tourism. Because the rest of the world lives not knowing about stroganina or one-day shchi.

Ilya Lazerson, president of Chefs Guild: “What foreigner would resist to try the porridge which would be taken out of the stove with a fork right in front of his or her eyes? He would love buckwheat then. Or melted milk. Take it out of the stove, cool it, so that it becomes thick with a little cream on top. And then give it to a foreigner who drank vodka with you the night before. He will be very happy!”

Inna Shalyto, chairman of tourism development committee of St. Petersburg administration: “We would want to retain this folkloric accent. That St. Petersburg is a two-way gate both from and to Europe and Russia”.

It’s important to note that St. Petersburg is competing to host the worldwide gastronomic summit predictably thanks to the national cuisine. Italy was trending, then Japan, then Norway. Its all about rotation.

Anton Abrezov, chef of a Russian cuisine restaurant: “The Russian cuisine will follow the Scandinavian. Considering the potential which our cuisine has, our chefs have, we will be trending, no doubts about that”

And it would be absurd to skip on this momentum. Well, Leningrad did manage to copyright candle fish – despite it being fished for in Vladivostok and Chile. The main thing is believing in the idea.

Alexey Mikhalev, reporter: “In 2008, Tokyo stripped Paris of the culinary capital status by getting 191th Michelin star. Its twice more than in the French capital. And in the middle of the 20th century, the post-war Japan became the flagman of car and electronics industries. Just as post-war Italy became the leader in style and design. Their successful experience suggests that cold-hearted approach and iron will would help fulfilling just about any – even seemingly unreachable – goal”. 

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