The word “gastronomy” often invokes images of elegant Parisian dishes and exotic Michelin-starred meals in Tokyo, but the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has a different idea.
In late 2015, Tucson was named the first North American UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
“It’s a huge deal to our community. We are being recognized for the cultural influence of food in our region and it is something that’s a global award,” says Lea Márquez-Peterson, President and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Márquez-Peterson notes that cultural diversity in our region influences our city’s affinity for good food, especially the Latino culture.
“Obviously with our proximity to Mexico, Mexican restaurants and other types of Latin-fusion-type restaurants have been key to that,” she says.
Márquez-Peterson also believes that the importance of family in the Latino community has shaped our relationship with food. “A lot of times with family, it’s held up or promoted with food and meal time and the importance of having meals as a family and I think all that plays into the cultural effect of food in our region.”
However, not only does Tucson gastronomy cross cultures, but it crosses paths between art, entrepreneurship, and technology.
“We’re very entrepreneurial here. I’ve lived in other parts of the country and you have restaurants, but they tend to be a lot of chains. Here we’ve got a lot of originals, a lot of family-owned businesses,” says Márquez-Peterson about Tucson’s culinary scene.
She adds that many businesses are using the technology of social media to reach out to consumers and to grow as a brand and community staple.
Márquez-Peterson is excited that the THCC is involved with the TENWEST movement, as a Tucson entity and a representative of the hispanic community.
“In Southern AZ, the average age for a Hispanic is 28, compared to 45 in the Anglo community. So, if you’re thinking young, dynamic, fast-growing and innovative, and three times more likely to start a business, and relate all that to the Hispanic community, absolutely they should be involved in TENWEST,” she says.
The Tucson Hispanic Chamber is partnering with Tucson Foodie to bring “Explorations in Food- Tucson as a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy” to this year’s festival. The panel will discuss the city’s food culture with Downtown Kitchen & Cocktails’ Chef Janos Wilder, Edible Baja’s Megan Kimble, and Jonathan Mabry of City of Tucson Historic Preservation among others.
Join us for this mixer Wednesday, October 26 at 4:30 p.m. Get your tickets today!