Luxembourg played host to Expogast 2022, a three-day culinary event this week. There are insufficient words to describe my emotions when I received the invitation.
Some of the renowned partners and sponsors, Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup, La Provençale, EHTL, Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg, Domaine Vin Moselle, World Association of Chefs Societies played a phenomenal role to elevate this to a stylish case.
As I made my way through into the main hall, a giant space, I was greeted by a visual flavor, one made up of color and translucency. A pedestrianized area that had ben designated for restaurants and vendors of the trade, lined with food stalls, restaurants and specialty items related to the world of gastronomy.
Each territory had been claimed with designs and decorative art revealing an aesthetic appeal on the products. Some were quite vogueish, eclectic, others had their photo walls up and floral ceilings for focal points. The whole space highlighted the principles of design resulting in balance, unity, contrast, and scale.
My favored display was the magnificent, pyramid shaped structure, reaching upwards to the ceiling. Using seasonal, local, and regional brightly colored crops, packing varietals strategically into a rhombus. The result was a lucid and exhaustive vision.
As I strolled through taking in the exposition by degrees, I had a trip down memory lane about my work in Hong Kong – the logistics behind ‘19 Arabian Nights’ at The Hong Kong Convention Center, Christmas at the Mandarin Oriental, and the opening of Seibu Supermarket. These were some of the projects that took foresight, time, and enormous amounts of preparation. I write about logistics and my experiences in my book, “Seva, The Art of Hospitality”.
Meeting the brigade of chefs and judges in their uniformed, starched whites as they marched through in military form, brought about cheer and applause. They were in their element and so was I!
Community Catering Teams included: Swiss Armed Forces, Australia, Norway, Polish Military Team, Canada, Austria/Team Vienna, Bundeswehr Germany, Compass Group UK, Denmark, France Armed Forces, Swiss Team, Luxembourg, Croatian, Greece. The brigade of chefs prepared lunch and dinner for thousands each of the three days gratifying long lines of gastronomies.
Here are some innovative menu items from the stars:
Starter by Team Cyprus: “Pan seared cured sea bass with lemon scented crust, sea bass tartare tart, sauté king scallop, cabbage leaf bergamot condiment, kohlrabi compressed topped with xynomyzithra cheese, beetroot puree, lobster bisque”.
Meat Dish by Norway National Team: “Organic duck from Telemark, terrine with duck leg confit, morel and duck hearts- oak wood smoked duck breast, charred kale leaves with mushroom & roasted yeast, braised salsify with berries, Madeira & fennel seeds, high almond potatoes, with black truffles, tartlet of caramelized onions & pickled apple sauce”.
Vegan Dish by Swiss Team: Smoked carrot dumpling, sauerkraut-tofu sauce braised parsnips, cabbage, pickled red onions fired, carrot green oil.
Side Dish by Austria/Team Vienna: Jerusalem artichoke cream, baked red cabbage, pretzel dumpling.
Dessert by England National Team: Oxfordshire Damson poached plums, Cornish clotted cream, sea salt almond, Fen Farm yogurt sorbet.
An Action Station is the optimum attention grabber, encapsulating all the elements that allow for more order, engagement, paired with a bit of a show, demonstrating the food preparation, arousing curiosity and interaction. I was drawn towards the tiny vegetarian spring rolls and the crepe flambe stations. The ultimate “wow” factor.
Naturally, I started conversations with the young chefs, asking questions, taking pics and soon there was a long line behind me wanting to join in. After discerning samples from both the stations, I reluctantly had to withdraw so others could enjoy their fair share. Did I mention action stations are great conversation starters as well? Well, I started a conversation with a photographer and got some good shots for my repertoire!
Cold Dishes Exhibit
The day climaxed with Food Fashion at its pinnacle. The exhibition of cold dishes, an international competition, was surreal, soupçons of multiplicity of foods presented on glossy fashioned vessels of art in geometrical and organic shapes.
This year, the cold plate show of the national and junior teams was not held in its usual format. Instead, to set an example against food waste, the organisers rethought the competition and decided to have this exhibition also evaluated by the jury.
There was a lot for they eye to feast on, but I stopped short when I saw a room full of children taking basic classes with the chefs. Tiptoes, eyes wide, giggles and squeals, smiles, and pounces, picking up bits of goodies to try to put it in the tall chefs’ mouths! This was most endearing. What a great idea to be inclusive of the young ones.
Armed with pâté de lapin and pâté de canard for our friends, a tub of Italian tomato sauce with complex flavor and truffle mezzelune for our dinner, I started my way back home. I was full of gratitude for the invite to observe a phenomenon such as this.
There was a proud sense of validation about why I chose this field as my life’s work. What a treat to see it flourish through a new generation of culinary creatives.