Joxe Mari Aizega of the Basque Culinary Center was one of the keynote speakers at a recent get together in rural Graubuenden, Switzerland, an event exploring the region's brand(ing) strategy and the trends driving it. Intrigued by the growing importance of "local", "regional" and gastronomy in place experiences and representations (also evident in Graubuenden's brand positioning), I caught up with Joxe Mari afterwards to learn more about the importance of culinary innovation and heritage for the identity and reputation of places.
Joxe Mari, as Director of Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastián, food is your daily business. Do you remember when you first got interested in the topic?
I remember being involved in cooking at home, with my grandparents and parents. Food was part of our family culture. Our everyday and our celebrations were linked with a strong food culture.
My education and professional development were not connected with gastronomy until a group of chefs approached the University in which I was Vicerector (Mondragon University) with the idea of creating a new education center focused on gastronomy. It was then when I discovered a sector full of needs and opportunities.