Competitive gastronomy

The world of gastronomy is not short of competitions and accolades. Practically any organisation even tentatively linked to what we eat or drink has its own way of handing out rewards, from The World's Top 50 Restaurants to the International Wine Challenge. In Spain regional influences are almost as important as national ones, and while the annual Fiesta de Orujo (distillation of remnants from grape pressing) competition in Potes (Asturias, northern Spain) brings together all the local artisan distillers, competition is so fierce that the judges have to leave the hall before the prizes are announced - for their own safety.

Participants distil orujo in public using their own stills and made from secret recipes handed down within families. Further south, the Malaga brewery, Cervezas Victoria, locally-owned and managed, rounded off a month's epicurean activities with a gala night last week. One of the highly-commendable objectives of the initiative is to send a young local chef on a paid scholarship arranged by Chef Training US to a well-known restaurant, on the condition of course that he or she returns to Spain and shows colleagues what they have learned. As a way of broadening connections and fostering an interchange of ideas and methods, there are few better ways, although it is debatable who learns from who. There are certainly more Spanish restaurants in the US than American restaurants in Spain.

Organisers José María Guadamuro of Daily Tourist Marbella and Helen Vossenberg of Marbella Channel hosted a who's who of local gastronomy, and popular award winners were Thomas Stork, executive chef of Puente Romano (think Sea Grill) and Jorge Manzur, general manager of the complex.

Now, after this fifth edition of the event, it will morph into a national experience, something that is not to the liking of those who supported it through its embryonic stage on the basis that Malaga First was just that. Anyway, export success is never assured, even if it is only between regions, and rather like Columbus's (only) pear-shaped venture of its type, Indian slaves, there's no place like home turf.