It is not the first time that I allow myself to reflect on the potential of gastronomy as an energizer of our society and our economy and, obviously, as a transcendent element for the consolidation of the country brand.
A few days ago, we were talking about the new sub-brand Andorra Selected to define a strategy aimed at attracting tourists with high purchasing power. Precisely of the 17 establishments that are part of this new initiative, there are 6 restaurants and 5 hotels that show off their differential gastronomic offer, 11 in total, which means that the “premiumness” of high-level restaurants and gastronomy takes the lead with respect to the rest of the services offered by the country.
This project is in the initial phase now, and I understand that this summer there will be a new evaluation process to incorporate new establishments, and everything suggests that more restaurants will certainly be added. Restaurants that undoubtedly deserve to be in the group of the best. In fact, in recent years, establishments of a high level have joined the market, and it would be unfair to talk about some of them at the risk of leaving those that also deserve to be highlighted, which ultimately comes down to demonstrate the good health of this sector in the Principality.
But the country’s gastronomic evolution has also been reflected in the commendable work of improving the restaurant offer, for example, in the country’s ski areas. Thanks to this effort, the degree of customer satisfaction has greatly increased, a matter that has also had an impact on the improvement of the results of said establishments. There are paradigmatic cases like that of Naturland, where the new restoration strategy has been decisive enough, along with other improvements, to start the road to economic recovery.
A few years ago, in a similar sense the country’s great ski domain, Granvalira, made a clear commitment to a qualitative improvement of the gastronomic offer, relying on an institution that is a reference in the world of gastronomic excellence, the Alicia Foundation, a Catalan institution that puts us on the track of the authentic dimension that gastronomy can represent in our country as well. As the reference foundation does, I want to imagine an Andorran institution that works on health and good eating habits, innovation, creativity and the development of new products, and knowledge of the indigenous food heritage.
Along these lines, at a local level, I would like to highlight the commendable work that Pili Iborra and Victor Barragan are doing in their “VIP” Gastronomic Laboratory in favor of healthy cuisine. It is evident today that food has a lot to do with our health and quality of life, and that the world of nutrition and everything it teaches us is taking on more and more prominence.
And the local products? Do we know these products enough? Are you getting the treatment you deserve? Agricultural, viticultural, livestock, artisanal products strive to be known, be positioned in the market, but could much more be done to enhance their positioning?
And the group itself that works in the world of restoration, are they organized, do they collaborate in a permanent and coordinated way? Do they share experiences, research, and innovate together?
And what can we say about the training, apart from the commendable effort of the professional school of the Lycée Comte de Foix, where every year some excited chef projects come out ready to “eat the world”! What else do we do to offer them a real opportunity to evolve, and going further, what do we do to attract new candidates from outside, loaded with talent who can also contribute their bit in the creation and development of a hub of Andorran restoration?
Perhaps it would be daring to think that we could afford to create an “Andorra Culinary Institute” in the style of those in the Basque Country, Catalonia, France or Switzerland, because we are not yet ready for something like that, but what is undoubted is that we have potential as a country, and we enjoy the talent of our specialists, nutritionists, gourmets, agricultural producers and livestock farmers, small industrialists in the sector and restaurateurs with enough strength to start something different, the authentic Andorran gastronomic ecosystem 3.0. We should realize that it is in our hands to plant the seed that will one day allow us to create an institution that dignifies the differential role of Andorran gastronomy in a particular high mountain context.
But our country is moving forward, and despite being far from a longed-for reference institution, new experiences are being activated such as the Andorra Taste, conceived as the first international congress of high mountain gastronomy and which will have more than 100 speakers from the most diverse places in the world, including Andorra of course, with the common denominator of highlighting high mountain cuisine. This event, which will have a professional and technical side, but also a popular and tourist side, will take place in Escaldes-Engordany from September 14 to 18, 2023, dates that I recommend putting on the agenda of those who love gastronomy in all its aspects.
Who knows, maybe this is the seed I was referring to earlier? What is the work to be developed from “the day after”? I think it would be very good to take advantage of this experience to make it evolve into an institution with a vocation of permanence and taking as a reference the 3 basic lines of the Alicia Foundation, but paying attention not to neglect the more traditional gastronomy, the usual, but making it evolve, completing it and transforming it to endow it with the value that innovation brings, but always with a deep respect for that traditional cuisine, that of our godmothers, that has helped us to grow and be where we are.
At this point, allow me to take the opportunity to renew my tribute to our vocational home chefs, to the grandmother, to the mother, to you who took care of and fed us with so much ‘love’ in our childhood and youth. Thanks to you, we learned to love and value cooking. Casseroles, sauces, broths, stews, rice, desserts, everything wonderful, endearing, unforgettable.
Your selflessness, your intuitive wisdom, marked us for life, and it is precisely this feeling that should encourage us to think that it is necessary to protect the legacy of so many godmothers, grandmothers, mothers who have also written in front of their stoves the history of Andorra. In the end, it is about continuing to write new chapters of this story but adapting them to the opportunities that fate offers us. They will participate in the construction of the Andorra Brand too, and there would be neither present nor future of gastronomy without respect for its legacy!
By Pere Augé, CEO and Founding Partner of Augé Holding Group
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