Chefs’ leaders from 36 countries will be heading to Wales next month as the nation prepares to host a major European Presidents culinary conference for the first time.
The Culinary Association of Wales (CAW) is hosting the World Association of Chefs’ Societies (WACS) European conference at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport on May 14 and 15.
Presidents of 36 national chefs’ associations are expected to attend the two-day conference, which is being supported by the Welsh Government and Visit Wales.
Wales’ Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said:
“We all know Wales is home to a wide range of world class food and drink products. This is reflected in the fact the industry is already more than half way towards achieving our target of 30% growth to £7 billion by 2020 and we now have 11 products that have received Protected Food Name status.
“So, this makes Wales the perfect place to host this most prestigious of events. This will be the ideal opportunity to promote our wonderful Welsh produce and for our food and drink producers to strengthen and establish new relations with potentially influential customers from around the continent.”
The conference is another major coup for Wales, which is set to welcome the UEFA Champions League final to National Stadium of Wales in Cardiff on June 3.
At a time when politicians are locked in debate about a hard or soft Brexit as the UK negotiates its exit from the European Union, CAW president Arwyn Watkins believes the conference could not have come at a better time for Welsh food and drink producers.
“It’s a huge honour for Wales to be selected to host the conference,” said Mr Watkins, who is managing director of Welshpool-based Cambrian Training Company. “Any opportunity Wales gets to speak to our European counterparts has got to be advantageous. It’s important to keep the dialogue open during the Brexit negotiations.
“The more that we can get chefs’ leaders from across Europe to recognise the quality of food and drink from Wales, the better chance we have of keeping that supply line alive in the future.
“That’s why we are staging a Welsh food and drink showcase at the conference featuring all of our PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) products. It’s important that we put these products in the hands of the end user and try to negotiate a trade to trade solution.
“It must be remembered that a lot of countries that will be represented at the conference are not members of the European Union and are therefore likely to be targets for future trade agreements.”
The showcase will be displayed in the Beaumaris suite at the Celtic Manor throughout the conference. Michael Bates, the resort’s executive chef, will be preparing a meal to celebrate the best of Welsh ingredients on the evening of May 14 and Llantrisant Male Voice Choir will give guests a flavour of Welsh culture.
Mr Watkins said the conference aims to share best practice between chefs’ associations across Europe and will be discussing plans for the Nestle International Chefs Day on October 20 when chefs around the world will be encouraged to visit schools in their home country to promote healthy eating.
Another issue on the agenda will be the European semi-finals of the Global Chef Competition in Prague in October where Wales will be represented by National Chef of Wales winner Simon Crockford from the Celtic Manor Resort and Junior Chef of Wales winner Steffan Davies from Gidleigh Park, Exeter.
In addition to Mr Watkins, Wales will be represented at the conference by CAW director Toby Beevers and Gareth Johns, head chef of the Wynnstay Hotel, Machynlleth, the CAW’s World Chefs Without Borders (WCWB) Ambassador.