What will pop into your mind when the word “carnival” is mentioned? You might think of parade floats in Brazil, passionate dance in Cuba, or tomato fight in Spain. Yet in Chengdu, a southwest city in China, the answer is: food.
On December 18, the 15th International Food Festival of Chengdu and 2018 Hotpot Culture Month of Chengdu-City of Gastronomy was launched in Chengdu, China. The food carnival will end on January 10, 2019. The International Food Festival of Chengdu is an important local food culture festival. Up to now, 14 sessions have been held to sustain and grow local cuisine scene. The annual event makes Chengdu an ideal place to enjoy food.
As a highlighted food festival brand in Chengdu, this year’s session comes with the theme “Food Culture-Inheritance, Innovation, Inclusiveness, Openness”. Focusing on the development trend of global catering industry, the festival aims to shape Chengdu into an international food industry pacesetter and a visible cuisine city, and build a world-class food industry ecosystem.
While world-renown Sichuan cuisine ranks top among “Eight Cuisines” in China, Chengdu is where Sichuan cuisine originated and develops. Early in 2010, Chengdu was rated as “City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO, the first Asian City that had received such an honor back then.
At present, there are more than 100,000 catering stores and 600,000 catering workers in Chengdu. Last year, Chengdu achieved RMB 79.4 billion of sales revenue in catering industry, second only to Guangzhou.
With strong industrial base and obvious comparative advantages, Chengdu has congenital conditions in both time and place for developing Sichuan cuisine industry. In 2015, Chengdu was identified by Ministry of Commerce of the P.R.C as a pilot city for optimizing the environment to promote the transformation development of the catering industry, Chengdu’s Sichuan cuisine industry has since then embarked on a journey of rapid development.
In recent years, Chengdu has launched projects such as the evaluation on Sichuan cuisine flagship store in building Sichuan cuisine “Five Famous (famous food, famous restaurant, famous chef, famous festival (meeting) and famous street (district))” brand system, the protection and inheritance of “time-honored brand” restaurants, the internationalization of Sichuan cuisine, the establishment of “Chengdu Sichuan cuisine overseas promotion center” and the acceleration of the development of “Internet Plus cuisine”, and has set up “Chengdu Sichuan cuisine overseas promotion center” abroad to bring Chengdu cuisine originally on the streets of the city into an orderly industrial development track.
Chen Xiaobing, an officer of Chengdu Municipal Commission of Commerce, said: “I think Sichuan cuisine has entered a stage needing industrialization and going out of Sichuan and China, and in the process of going out, it shall be industrialized.”
Market is the best witness to the industry. Today, Sichuan cuisine is no longer just a delicacy on Chengdu people’s dining tables, and a large number of Chengdu catering brands are going abroad to make the world have a taste. The famous Chengdu catering enterprises such as Haidilao Hot Pot, Old House, Chengdu Impression and Sichuan Folk have opened hundreds of chain stores overseas.
Sichuan cuisine is one of the most popular Chinese cuisines for overseas consumers, according to The Survey on Overseas Recognition of Chinese Cuisine organized by the Chinese Cuisine Association and the Global Times in 2017. Being recognized in international market, the mission as the origin of Sichuan Cuisine, and the responsibility as a world “City of Gastronomy”, all these mean a bright future for the catering industry in Chengdu as it seeks to go global. Bian Jiang, Vice Chairman of China Cuisine Association said: “we are witnessing an enabling role of food culture in boosting communication, understanding, and friendship among people of all countries, and it is important for Sichuan Cuisine to make greater efforts in overseas expansion”.
He also holds that the international development of Sichuan cuisine should be deepened continuously while focusing on the promotion of Sichuan cuisine’s traditional culture. This can be done through building international brands of Sichuan cuisine, telling stories concerning Sichuan cuisine well in international languages, governmental coordination and promoting the interconnected development of Sichuan cuisine industry and other measures. “With the cognition, acceptance and love of overseas people as the start point and the purpose, for Sichuan cuisine, efforts should be made in adjusting cultural dissemination means, enriching presentation modes and adding international elements.”
Behind the “internationalization”, lies the inheritance and innovation of Chengdu food’s tradition and elements. “The hot taste should reflect its art while the numb its feeling.” How to make “better” Sichuan cuisine, Lan Guijun, Sichuan cuisine master in Chengdu, emphasizes that innovation should be made based on the inheritance while adhering to the “root”.
Now, with the reputation and influence of the City of Gastronomy, and the ideas and modes of industrial development, food is bringing unprecedented opportunities to Chengdu in the context of open international view and economic thinking.
At the food festival, there are a wide range of distinctive Chengdu cuisines such as Pork Lungs in Chili Sauce, Spicy Hot Pot, Hot Chuan, which are highly praised by gourmets all over the world. Chengdu food, is becoming one of the most recognizable symbols of the city.
For Chengdu, behind the food carnival, lies not only the satisfaction of appetite, but also the confidence and determination of Chengdu food industry to go global.
Source: The Organizing Committee of the 15th International Food Festival of Chengdu