Expogast 2018 – It’s a wrap!

It has been a week, now, since Expogast, the most relevant gastronomic exhibition in the world of cooking, closed its doors and it is then time to make a quick summary, in the wait, not that short, of next edition, in 4 years time.

Our “Barefoot in Luxembourg” team spent much intense and funny times behind the doors of Luxexpo The Box, from the first day of the opening ceremony, with its fires and drums: we interviewed the chefs, photographed every corner and, of course, tasted the amazing food!

The Villeroy et Boch Culinary World Cup / Expogast 2018 in Luxemburg – that this year had a specific focus on respect for food and was particularly attentive to the fight against food waste – went finally to the Swedish National Team, the silver medal to the Singapore National Team and the bronze medal to Denmark. This is to talk merely about the final results, but if you had attend the Expogast during its 5 days kermesse you probably knew it was not just that bit.

Many other gold, silver and bronze medals have been awarded in the five days at Luxexpo The Box.

If we focus on the competition of National Teams, leaving aside minor competitors such as Juniors, Community Catering and individual Chefs, they participated in two different main categories:

– the cold food competition, “Show Food”, where cutting-edge techniques are used to achieve culinary design works for exhibition (preparation is not visible)

and

– the “Hot Food” category, where a 3-course menu had to be prepared in 6 hours  during spectacular show cooking, and then served to 110 people. Indeed, it was possible for the visitors to seat down and taste these fabulous 3-course menu, but – here come the trick – you should have booked your ticket well in advance through the Expogast website – at least, we know for next edition.

In both categories, National Teams received their scores by an international jury of chefs and industry experts.

For the “Show Food” the jury’s score was based on a visual examination of the final work. For the “Hot Food”, the judges observed the work on the team also during the preparation time in their boxes and evaluating through several different criteria: method, technique, innovation, cleanliness, agility, concentration, taste, aesthetics, presentation.

Among many we talked, we were impressed by the words of Chef Gaetano Ragunì, general manager of NIC, Italian National Chefs, who explained us that there are no big differences between cooking and soccer competitions. Cooking is as well a sport discipline in all respects, completed with sacrifices, study of new techniques, night tests, long years training, mental and physical concentration and, above all, a life around the world to support the team.

This comparison left me stunned, but with one new sport to support in my life: competitive gastronomy, of course.

Aside from competitions, the Expogast consisted as well in three main halls of food products and wines, that visitors can taste during the exhibition as well as buy. So next to stands selling Turkish sweets scented of orange flowers you can taste the excellence of Italian wines, choose your oysters and lobster, try Spanish ham and drink Luxembourgish cremant.

On the last day of the Expogast, after an electrifying dance and light show, in front the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Sweden raised the well-deserved prize: a cup that is a symbol of chefs around all the continents raising the earth towards the sky.

This was my first approach to the world of cooking in Luxembourg and left me enthusiastic, I am already counting down for next edition!

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A coffee with… Alessio Zappala

He is the one in charge of “feeding” the Italian Ambassador in Luxembourg. He knows her tastes and works hardly to delight the palate of the renowned personalities from Luxemburg and European political scene who frequent her table.

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His name is Alessio Zappala, known as Chef Alessio, he was born in Sicily, Italy, and he is a volcano of gastronomic knowledge, stubbornness and happiness. This might have been probably what impressed the Ambassador Mrs. Rossella Franchini, before choosing him for her kitchen. We met Alessio for a coffee at Caffé Torino in a sunny morning and ask him some questions, for the readers of Barefoot in Luxembourg to get know him better.


Angela
– Chef, what does it mean for a young chef to play such an institutional role?
Alessio – Working for the Italian Ambassador in Luxembourg is a mission. And not just for what you represent, but for the commitment it takes to promote Italian culinary culture in this country. Since I have been working for her, I had the opportunity to work toward my philosophy.

AN – And what is your philosophy?
AL – Here in Luxembourg, Italian restaurants do not lack, indeed, we can say that there are a lot. Despite this, finding who really respects the tradition and the high quality of our products is very difficult. And I understand it, because it is often more effective to meet local tastes and to choose products easily available rather than making efforts to keep up the pure, authentic Italian gastronomic proposal. So I commit myself and I fight for not coming down to these compromises. Each Italian recipe is made of typical ingredients, most of which are excellent. Let us use them, let people know, we don’t have to add elements that have nothing to do with our culture.

AN – You’re right. I am on your side. And tell me how the ambassador caught you?
AL – In 2014 I won the Bronze Medal at the World Cooking Championship at ExpoGast, an international haute cuisine event, in which I obviously represented Italy. That was followed by the silver medal during the period when I was in the Federation of Italian chefs in Belgium. These occasions are unique, you know, to make yourself known. Not to mention my commitment in Luxembourg to grow the Italian Chefs Federation.
So, coming back to your question, it was that one evening a few months ago, I received a proposal that I could not refuse 😉

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AN – And now you cannot get away from the one question: what does the Ambassador fancy to eat?
AL – The ambassador has refined tastes and is respectful of every single ingredient. It is for this reason that she does not like the excess of spices and sauces, to taste the most authentic flavor of the dish. She decides the main and the sides. And as she decides, there are no further questions.
As for her preferences, she especially loves game prepared with the typical Italian aromatic herbs and the sauce that is naturally released during cooking. Then she often makes herself the bread with which she delights family and guests.

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AN – Thanks Alessio, it’s always nice to meet people through their tastes. And tell us, where will we find you soon?
AL – This year, from 24 to 28 November, the Expogast is back, returning to Luxembourg every 4 years and featuring international culinary art. With a lot of competitions, between 46 teams of different nationalities for the “Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup”. Well, I will coordinate the Italian team.
So dear Italian readers (and not only!), come to cheer for us!

AN – We, at Barefoot in Luxembourg, will certainly be there. So now last question: What have you got up your sleeve?
AL – There is something in preparation on the menu, but I cannot announce anything yet. Readers will have to wait a few month, they have to stay tuned until next interview 😉

AN – Thanks for this pleasant coffee together, Alessio
AL – Thanks to you Angela for having given me the possibility to talk about my projects on the blog.

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If you want to follow Chef Alessio Zappala check his Facebook Page here.

Pictures are courtesy of Laura Iberti. Follow her Instagram account here.

Jam BBQ at Windsor: Unexpected and Full of Surprises

Corie and I have been invited to the last summer appointment of the Jam BBQ series, an evening of show cooking at the Atelier du Windsor in Bertrange.

It was a warm Wednesday of September and for us it was the first time.

Those of you who follow the blog probably know pretty well the level of expectations of Corie, mine not yet. Well, as it was a BBQ event, we said, let’s wait for a lot of succulent meat, grilled outside and soft to the heart, – sorry we are not vegan tonight!

When we arrived, the dehors of the Atelier du Windsor was already almost full, the fires and the stove were heated on a long table made available for a show cooking with several hands (I didn’t know, mea culpa, so it was a surprise and I loved it!). I only knew there would have been a barbecue, a DJ set and a cocktail stand held by the Atelier du Barman.

On one side, the bartender prepared delicious cocktails that my adventure partner and I missed out with the desire to taste the wines on display. Sigh!

For starters, the waitress served us a plate of sushi. Aaah! Although I am notoriously a sushi lover, I could not hide my expression of amazement mixed with confusion. I look at Corie and read the same loss in her.

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Keep calm, let’s try to understand.

Ok, a chat with Charlotte, the communication manager of the restaurant, and we understood that, apart from this entrée, the rest of the dishes would have provided after a nice hot bath on the grill, but no dish could be anticipated at that stage. Each recipe would have been improvised at the moment by five local and international chefs during a battle with hot forks and at the rhythm of their favorite playlists.

It was very interesting.

Here, between a Cremant and a IG story, we were served the first courses: scallops and prawns with salad at Chorizo, prepared by the Luxembourger chef Guy Kohnen and then rare Oxiblue grilled, served with braised pumpkin and apple foam, all infused with ginger. A well-chosen and unusual combination with the intriguing Asian scent, prepared by François Jagut chef of Les Roses, Mondorf-les-Bains.

And, listen, listen, finally the meat! Imagine the joy!

Indeed, three courses for carnivores followed. The beef “tagliata” by Gilbert Welter of Op der Leiffrächen, Kayl, also with strong Asian references and served strangely in a bowl. Homemade tacos with meat and vegetables by Francisco Arroyo Ramirez, Casa Natalia, Los Cabos, Mexique, lovely presentation and amazing tasting. Last but not least our coup de coeur: porc “Schneidewind style”, by Jan Schneidewind, pork in strips served on spicy bruschetta. I think I took the dish at least three times, while Corie did not stop until the owner shake hands to greet us 😉

The summer Jam BBQ at Atelier du Windsor was definitely a success.

During the colder months, the party will move indoor, with a similar formula, for a Sunday brunch children-friendly, Kitchen Party. On the menu: show cooking, entertainment and surprises for children, cocktail bar for adults and non-alcohol cocktails for the little ones, live music … It’s happening every first Sunday of the month: October 7th (SOLD OUT), November 4th, December 2nd.
Price is € 45 per person excluding drinks and a reservation is needed.

Cineast Festival: the 11th edition

Participating in a press conference always allows you to get in the mood that the event intends to transmit. This was the case of the presentation conference of Cineast, the Central and Eastern Europe Film Festival in Luxembourg held last week at the Cinématèque, that this year celebrates its 11th edition.

Together with Corie on my side and with a pen and paper (I had not done it for quite a while), I took notes 😉 to give you some more excitement and insider tips regarding the Festival.
In the warm atmosphere of the main cinema room and after a hot tea with croissants, the speakers told us with great humor the strong motivation that led them here.

“An X-ray of the former communist countries, a story of their sociological ghosts, traditions and history through a selection of the most beautiful films from Central and Eastern Europe expressed through a new wave of Czech, Polish, Romanian cinema and in general European Middle Eastern cinema “. The words gave us an idea of the main focus of the Festival, that will kick off on October 4th and will invade the Grand Duchy (so not just Luxembourg city, but as well other areas, as Vianden and Esch and off the boarder in Saarbrucken) with its events until October 21st.

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We will see film contaminations and new trends that mirror the multiculturalism of the countries left by Communism, but also of their search for identity.
No iconic characters, but power of images and dialogues to celebrate with this edition the centenary of the independence of the Baltics.
On the menu, at the Cinemateque, Neimënster and Ciné Utopia, but also all around the capital, more than 100 films between movies and short films with a new entry: a film from Georgia, a novelty of this edition.

7 films in the race:

Ága / Ага, by Milko Lazarov

Alice T. by Radu Muntean

One Day / Egy nap by Zsófia Szilágyi

Take It or Leave It / Võta või jäta, by Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo

The Load / Teret, by Ognjen Glavonić

Silent Night / Cicha noc by Piotr Domalewski

Winter Flies / Všechno bude, by Olmo Omerzu.

An international jury will award the “Grand Prix” and the “Prix Spécial du jury” while the jury will award the “Prix de la Critique”. And the public? It will also be protagonist with an important role: the spectators will be called to contribute with the “Prix du Public”. The awards ceremony will be held on October 19th at the Cinématèque.

The festival will be not only an occasion to go to the movies, but also an opportunity to party, Luxembourg certainly does not pull back and will honor the countries represented with gastronomic evenings, photographic exhibitions and musical events, all to remember the precious link between
film and music.

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The musical program starts on Friday October 5th at Melusina with the traditional Balkan Party, hosted by the Macedonian brass band Džambo Aguševi Orchestra and DJ Tagada. A few days after the Polish group Pasimito will accompany live the classic silent film Battleship Potemkin at the Cinematheque (11/10). The Baltic Party at the Rotondes will be headlining the Latvian indie rock band Polifauna (13/10) and the next day the Slovak legend of the jazz trumpet Laco Deczi will perform at Neimënster during the Jazz Apéro (14/10 in 11:00). To finish in style, the closing party will be hosted by the French group Attoft Fanfare (Melusina 20/10).

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The cineart program is centered around the great photographic exhibition “Identities” (4-24 October), which will take place on Thursday, October 4th from 5:30 pm in the vaulted cellars of Neimënster, festival also offers two exhibitions of film posters: Polish Film Posters: Kliś Kubica Urbańczyk at the Ancien Cinema in Vianden with modern creations for well-known Polish films (October 4-20) as well as Art_Desire_Freedom: Czech Film Posters at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Luxembourg with original posters for films of the Czechoslovak New Wave (October 10-18).

Finally, the cinema-gastronomy program consists first of all of the gastronomic evening with a large selection of Eastern European dishes and drinks on 9 October at Brasserie Wenzel. In addition, there will also be specialties and snacks available during the concerts as well as special evenings dedicated to certain countries: the evening Georgian (6/10), Latvian (8/10), Czech (9/10), Slovenian (13/10), Slovak (13/10), Bulgarian (15/10) and Lithuanian (16/10).


Enjoy the show and find the detailed program here.