The influence of social media means it’s possible to take a look at global cuisines without leaving home.
However, there is nothing like tasting regional cooking and products in situ, talking to the people who work in the kitchens, farms and fisheries, and learning from the groups who champion the local food economy.
Birmingham is the only UK member of the Délice Network of global food cities; it is one of 27 diverse urban conurbations across four continents that work with the organisation.
Member cities get a unique insight into food preparations, cooking styles, ingredients and cultures via an annual programme of study tours.
Délice has just published its annual report for 2018 in which it sets out its bold ambition to become “the most significant professional city network on gastronomy.” It implicitly recognises that the food agenda is a vital part of urban development strategies.
Olivier Marette, president of Délice, says: “More than ever, cities around the world are convinced that food and gastronomy can make a true difference. More than ever, food has become a core aspect of city competitiveness and attractiveness, thanks to the growing food service generating jobs and economic development. In addition, cities now have to face the great challenges of food sourcing and sustainability.”
Liquid has well-established connections with Délice thanks to chef director David Colcombe, who is the Birmingham representative for the network. In the past 12 months, Chef Colcombe attended Délice study tours to Guangzhou, China, and Gothenburg, Sweden, together with Liquid head of content Richard McComb, who was invited in his capacity as an international food journalist.
In Guangzhou, Richard gave a presentation on the development of food culture in Birmingham, addressing delegates including high-ranking government officials and major food manufacturers. In Gothenburg, he took members through the history, operation and impact of food guides and restaurant reviews.
The highlights of the Gothenburg visit included a lobster “safari” around the archipelago, learning about school meals provision in the city and discovering the provenance of local seafood delicacies such as mussels and crayfish.
Délice continues to expand and four new cities joined in 2018: Kobe, Japan; Gaziantep, Turkey; Tucson, USA; and Busan, Korea. The applications were approved due to the cities contrasting approaches to gastronomy.
Chef Colcombe says: “The Délice Network provides a unique platform to pool knowledge and gain new insights about the development of food cultures and the crucial role played by the food sector in the economic and social development of cities.
“From cheesemakers and artisan brewers to farmers rearing rare breeds and outstanding chefs, the diversity of the food economy is astonishing. The challenge now is to harness all this activity in a sustainable way that supports employment, boosts educational opportunities and enriches lives.”