From 13 to 15 September some of the world's best female chefs will be in several locations in the Principality of Asturias to take part in a congress alongside Asturias stewmistresses, producers, sommeliers, women working restaurant floors, enterprising businesswomen and female Spanish chefs.
In the third week of September (13, 14 and 15), Asturias is the venue for the first International Congress of Women, Gastronomy and the Rural Milieu. Organised by Vocento's Gastronomy Division, with the Principality of Asturias acting as institutional promoter, FéminAS seeks to pay homage to women working in the world of gastronomy and the rural milieu, and become a unique event to support and defend activities that showcase women in catering and the primary sector, amid social awareness to defend the most necessary sustainability, the sustainability of rural communities.
The venue for this congress over the next four years will be the Principality of Asturias, a region which, like no other, works to protect a gastronomic culture that the stewmistresses achieved with their determination and capacity for work at their own eateries. It is an itinerant congress, bringing together some of the world's best female chefs alongside Asturias stewmistresses, producers, sommeliers, women working restaurant floors, enterprising businesswomen and female Spanish chefs.
The first round of the congress will be set in the east of the Principality of Asturias, and will be streamed with free access after registration from any part of the world to an event with multidisciplinary content at the highest possible level. Over the three days, the congress - to be inaugurated on Monday 13 September at the Universidad Laboral theatre in Gijón - will visit a number of locations, including Colunga, Valdesoto, Manzaneda and Cereceda. And emblematic restaurants such as Casa Telva, Vista Alegre and Casa Belarmino will be staging four-hand, six-hand and eight-hand gastronomic activities, with the chefs of the Asturias "Guisanderas" Club as the star attraction.
The world's best chefs
Over the last 20 years, just when it seemed that the only future and destiny of cookery lay in innovation and creativity, it was women who stood behind the concepts and values that are now taking world gastronomy by storm: identity, authenticity, territory and local produce. In many countries, women's cooking played and continues to play an essential role in the cultural - if not physical - survival of many human collectives. FéminAS was established to combine this popular cooking with more gastronomic fare, and put the spotlight on Asturias alongside some of the world's leading female chefs.
The Argentinian Narda Lepes, best Latin American chef in the latest 50 Best list, and Leo Espinosa, the Colombian chef who revolutionised Latin American cuisine and recouped the secrets of indigenous ingredients and ancestral techniques, will be two of the speakers at the event. Najat Kaanache, the grand ambassador of Moroccan cuisine, will also be there. Or Mexican Celia Florián, the women who gave up working in a bank to become an international exponent of traditional Mexican cuisine, and is also the founder of the Oaxaca Association of Traditional Female Chefs, an organisation which, like the Stewmistresses of Asturias, has turned their cooking into a life story on every plate thanks to their techniques, tastes, textures and colours. During the congress, in fact, the Oaxaca chefs will be presented with the ‘Guardians of Tradition’ award for their work to protect the legacy of the best of Mexico's many and varied recipes.
The national representatives at FéminAS will be Galician chef Lucía Freitas (A Tafona*), who has just produced a menu at her restaurant in Santiago de Compostela which arose from reflections during the pandemic, a period which also enabled her to roll out a work-family balance for her business; Elena Lucas (La Lobita*), the Soria chef calling for visibility for female chefs in rural environments from her restaurant in Navalneo, a village with a population of just over 600; Esther Manzano, with her double workload between Casa Marcial** and Gijón restaurant La Salgar*; or Charo Carmona (Arte de Cozina), the Andalusian chef who has combined local recipes handed down from previous generations with others tracked down in books and documents with the assistance of historians. They will be joined by some of the most famous "guisandera" stewmistresses in Asturias, among others Amanda Álvarez, President of the Asturias "Guisanderas" Club, and Elvira (Viri) Fernández (Llar de Viri, San Román de Candamo), the only Asturias chef with a Michelin green star.
This first congress will feature not only chefs, but also producers (female livestock breeders and farmers), floor manageresses or businesswomen in cookery demonstrations, debates and round tables. Here it must be pointed out that there can be no understanding of sectors such as agricultural production, livestock farming or winemaking without the work of women, who are increasingly stepping up to manage businesses or transformation outlets. Female resilience is becoming the most strategic weapon.
That is why FéminAS intends to address gastronomy as a link connecting and elevating the value of hard work in agriculture, agroindustry, tourism and culture through women, who have acted as the guardians of traditional culinary stock all over the world.
FéminAS also seeks to act as a vector in the defence of a new reality, supporting ideas and projects which focus on communities in a bid to boost their standards of living. In many cases through gastronomy, as restaurants contemplate the countryside and agriculture from a modern perspective and convey this updated, positive image of the rural milieu to urban environments. Making them a new attraction for upmarket tourism.