Escuela de Hosterería, Echaurren Restaurant and Cocina a Ciegas, 2023 Awards from the Riojana Academy of Gastronomy.
The great emotion aroused by the interventions of the winners and the brilliant healthy gastronomy lesson given by Marcos Malumbres were the stars of the second edition of the Rioja Gastronomy Academy Awards, awarded to the Paniego family of the Hotel Restaurant Echaurren, to the School of Hospitality of Santo Domingo and the Cocinar a Ciegas initiative by Ángel Palacios. Some awards that, as explained by the president of the Academy, Pedro Barrio, "recognize the work of those people, companies and institutions that stand out for being an example of quality and good work in the field of gastronomy, exerting a positive influence on society and in the image of excellence that La Rioja projects abroad, to the point of having become one of the most attractive regions of the national gastronomic scene”.
The success of the Academy Awards Gala, held on Monday, March 27 at Bodegas Franco Españolas and organized in collaboration with the Vocento Group, has been a good indicator of the great moment that Riojan gastronomy is going through and of the importance growing that is acquiring in the regional economy, a particularly relevant contribution in rural areas. This was highlighted in their speeches by the Minister of Agriculture of La Rioja, Eva Hita, and the director of Diario La Rioja, Teresa Cobo. These rural areas are precisely the ones that offer the best conditions to be able to lead a healthy life, associated with greater longevity, as the researcher from La Rioja Marcos Malumbres (Alfaro 1965) came to demonstrate in his inaugural conference “May food be your medicine”. As much for the interest of its content as for the brilliance of the exposition, he enthused the audience. In his presentation, Dr. José Antonio Oteo highlighted "the generosity that he has always shown with his land, full of stars and suns, where one of the great pleasures is good food." “Imagine if, while we enjoy ourselves, we are also taking care of ourselves…”
Three prizes based
As is well said of some representative dishes of La Rioja gastronomy, the three chosen by the Academy formed a high-level and well-founded menu. On behalf of the Paniego family, Marisa, José Félix and Francis, the three brothers currently running the business, received the Award given by the Academy to the Hotel Restaurant Echaurren de Ezcaray on the 125th anniversary of its foundation "for having become a benchmark traditional haute cuisine in La Rioja”. In his words of thanks, Francis emotionally recalled the figure of his father, Felix Paniego, who recently passed away, and what his mother Marisa told him after receiving the first Michelin star, telling him the names of those who had preceded them in the business as an espresso recognition of the contribution of each generation of the family. As Pedro Barrio recalled, Marisa Sánchez and Lorenzo Cañas modernized Rioja cuisine in the 1970s.
The School of Hospitality and Tourism of La Rioja CIPFP Camino de Santiago has been running for four decades now, based in Santo Domingo de La Calzada, being responsible for the training of hospitality professionals, both in the kitchen and in the dining room. It is this trajectory that the Academy has recognized him, as responsible for the training of a generation of chefs who are currently succeeding at the helm of the kitchens of prestigious restaurants in La Rioja and throughout Spain. The director, Abencio Millán – who was a student first, like most of the teachers – said he was very proud that the School received recognition from the Academy for its contribution to the gastronomy of the region, hoping that it would contribute to "give a greater visibility to this educational center, whose students are an asset to the Riojan hospitality industry, but also the ambassadors of its gastronomy”. The School has recently received the distinction of "center of excellence" and is the only one of the four with this distinction that is in a town.
Ángel Palacios was also a professor at the Hospitality School when an unfortunate event such as loss of vision prevented him from continuing with his professional career. He then knew how to turn adversity into an opportunity. He did not resign himself to accepting the axiom "the blind are condemned to eat from a can" and created the Cocinar a Ciegas initiative - an association based in Villamediana de Iregua -, which received recognition from the Academy "for its special sensitivity to bring the world closer of gastronomy to people with disabilities”. The great ovation of all those present underlined the gesture that Ángel had when he asked them to pass the trophy on to the group of members of the association who accompanied him so that they could touch it and feel it, "because that is our way of seeing and because the Award is for the whole team”, which he called “the best kitchen team in the world”.
May food be your medicine
This phrase said by Hippocrates 2,500 years ago, was the suggestive title of the conference by Marcos Malumbres, doctor in Molecular Biology, Gold Medal of the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC) in 2019 for his contributions to Science and commitment to Society and visiting professor at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute-Harvard University in Boston. These are some brushstrokes of the extensive curriculum and wide international recognition of this pottery artist, whose work places him among the 10 most cited Spanish researchers in Biomedicine in the last decade. In 2004 he was appointed head of the Senior Group of the Cell Division and Cancer Group of the National Cancer Research Center (CNIO) and since January 2023 he has led the Cancer Cell Cycle group at the Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) in Barcelona. He currently focuses his research on improving cancer therapies and on the mechanisms that increase the incidence of cancer in relation to current lifestyles.
Although he did it in a very entertaining way, he spared no crudeness when describing to the audience the unstoppable advance of cancer among the population and focused on healthy lifestyle habits the most effective solutions, giving as a proven fact that only 20% depends on the genetic predisposition the possibility of developing cancer. He also highlighted the serious problem that childhood obesity represents in Spain. Taking as a reference the study of the so-called 'blue zones of the planet' (five zones where the longest-lived population is concentrated), he explained the nine common characteristics of the lifestyle of the inhabitants of these zones (natural mobility, daily diet with wine and 90% vegetable diet, lack of stress, strong family and social ties, etc.), concluding with an appeal to the authorities to adopt measures that favor this healthier lifestyle.