Chefs and tourism experts visit Olive Festival on World Olive Tree Day

Fourteen chefs, hoteliers, restaurant experts, and food writers visited the 23rd National Olive Festival and Rural Products Exhibition in Mecca Mall to meet rural producers on a symbolic day to reflec

Chefs and tourism experts visit Olive Festival on World Olive Tree Day
(Photos: courtesy of NARC)

Presenting the Mehras stamp. Left to right: Lina Taybeh (Hidden Oasis), Dr. Raed Khries (Itqan Mushrooms), Eng. Sameer Suleiman (NARC), Mr. Nabil Assaf (FAO Jordan), Dr. Nizar Haddad (National Agricultural Research Center), Nico Dingemans (From Farm to Fork in Jordan), Chef Saleh Hamdan (JR The Wine Experience), Sami Allawama (Camelera), Dalia Hammad (sustainable tourism expert), Jude Al Safadi (photographer), Lina Dahbour (communications expert), Claude Zumot (Jordan Hotel Supplies), Chef Najwan Al Masri (The Precious), Chef Maisa Miqdadi (Maisa Space), Zeid Odeh (Jordan News), Chef Haya Issa (Romero Restaurant Group)

Zeid Odeh (hospitality professional) – In terms of any food festival that is usually held at convention centers, it is assumed that they are mainly targeting businesses, but little does one know that it can be of great value to consumers and could result in expanding one's horizon and knowledge over the tasty staples that are being produced from the soil of Jordan and showcase the people behind it. We began the tour with welcoming words from Dr. Nizar Haddad, Director General of the National Agricultural Research Center (NARC), and Mr. Nabil Assaf, Jordan representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who shared the vision behind the festival and the space and support they give to olive farmers, olive oil producers, small rural businesses, and start-ups to showcase their products.

The festival itself was well organized and I was surprised by the number of vendors that reached more than 800 this year, mainly women supporting their families with the help of NARC in marketing their products at the festival and with the help of the social security fund. All of this is done as part of the vision of a better life for all and leaving no one behind. The festival was not limited to only olives and olive oil. Many businesses brought other products that they grow and produce, from spices, a wide variety of vinegars, cheeses, dried fruits, and maftoul, to homemade pastries that were both delicious and served for a very reasonable price. I enjoyed how every booth had ambitious people behind it, who were there to give you a taste of their product that they are very proud of, and they were beyond generous to give you as many samples as you’d like.

Left to right: hydroponic farm, saffron flower, basalt sumac mill, mushroom grow kit

There was also a part of the exhibition that introduced technology into the farming and modern production of produce, such as vertical farming that saves space, given its structure and that it is grown vertically and uses only 10 percent of the needed water supply and is mainly focused on all leafy products. The aquaponics has fresh fish living in water that is used to water the plants which makes it a full cycle. If this was implemented on a larger scale, the farm could produce both leafy plants as well as fish. One of the incubators was a start-up who is conducting research on mushroom farming based on no-waste techniques by using barley hay for soil. The product can now reach households and consumers can easily plant the mushrooms at home. They can also provide mushroom grow kits for businesses. Restaurants and Food and beverage establishments can grow their mushrooms.

Also, to my surprise, I found out that we have a saffron farm in Amman, and those who are familiar with saffron know the tedious process of harvesting this spice that comes from a purple flower. Every flower produces three strings of saffron that have to be hand-picked, hence why the price of saffron can be quite expensive depending on its quality. Another surprise was the Lavender farm in Ajloun, where the entrepreneur behind the idea plans to expand the farm to a full hospitality experience where it’s a place people would go to spend a day or host an event once the project reaches its full potential.

Walking around the exhibition gave me a sense of simplicity and humbleness because of how much this land, which we take for granted, has given us and how we are treating it. From a B2B perspective, this high-quality product with a reasonable price is gold.  However, from a B2C point of view, I believe the product should go a step further and include branding the products and looking at them from the perspective of the modern Ammani consumer. For instance, low-quality imported olives in a stylish glass jar with a modern design may sell more to households than high-quality local olives that fulfill their social and economic obligations but are presented in less attractive packaging. With that being said, I believe that it is a great opportunity for them to display their products to other businesses, yet to infiltrate the household consumer market, a little more support into branding and packaging would be beneficial to grab the attention of the younger consumers.

moringa, NARC robot, vinegar varieties, olive oil producer meets Mr. Faisal Tutunji (Manara Arts & Culture).

Left to right: Dr. Nizar Haddad (National Agricultural Research Center), Mohammad Abdallah (Jordan News), Chef Najwan Al Mastri (The Precious), Zeid Odeh and Chef Haya Issa (Romero Restaurant Group), Chef Hamza Kalaji (Shãm), Claude Zumot (Jordan Hotel Supplies), Chef Maisa Miqdadi (Maisa Space)

Nico Dingemans (food writer) - Chefs of the future have to know more about soil and farmers of the future have to know more about taste to create a more sustainable food chain.

With this in mind, NARC, Jordan News, and From Farm to Fork in Jordan hosted fourteen Jordanian chefs, hospitality experts, and food writers at the 23rd National Olive Festival and Rural Products Exhibition on World Olive Tree Day, a symbolic day to reflect on peace, wisdom, and harmony in solidarity with Gaza, to support local producers, and to (re)discover culinary heritage. The festival traditionally targets Jordanian households but is also a perfect platform to initiate a necessary dialogue between agriculture and hospitality. I believe that hotel & restaurant owners, chefs, tourism professionals, and especially hotel managers, and directors of procurement, food & beverage, and marketing should visit national food festivals for at least two reasons:

  1. Education - to update themselves about locality, seasonality, and the origin of local ingredients because their guests want to know
  2. Support Local - hospitality professionals have a responsibility to source locally while helping rural communities to upgrade quality and find supply solutions

اضافة اعلان

I also believe that hospitality educators, and hotel, restaurant, and tourism associations have the inherent responsibility to take the lead on visiting food festivals with their students and members. Vice versa, I agree with Zeid that the agricultural sector should step into the shoes of their potential buyers and learn more about the supply needs of the hospitality sector. My wish is that our example will be followed, that the dialogue deepens, and that it secures market linkages from-farm-to-fork. It will enhance responsible tourism and sustainable gastronomy for visitors and (local) consumers in Jordan.

The highlight of the festival was the presentation of the Mehras stamp by NARC and the Jordan Post. Research conducted by NARC provided evidence that the historical olive cultivar Mehras, the name given to large native Rumi olive trees, is one of the oldest genotypes of olive trees in the Mediterranean region, which goes to show that Jordan truly is a unique culinary destination.

Video: Golden Roots: Protecting Jordan’s Ancient Olive Trees

Dr. Nizar Haddad (National Agricultural Research Center) presents the Mehras stamp to Nico Dingemans (From Farm to Fork in Jordan)

Herbal Blue tea varieties with health benefits can be sampled at the NARC incubator plaza  

Itqan Mushroom Grow Kits. Left to right: Lina Dahbour (communications expert), Jude Al Safadi (photographer), Chef Najwan Al Masri (The Precious), Nico Dingemans (Food Writer), Dr. Raed Khries (Itqan Mushrooms), Zeid Odeh (Jordan News), Chef Haya Issa (Romero Restaurants Group), Chef Maisa Miqdadi (Maisa Space)

Lavender Farm. Left to right: Maisa Miqdadi (Maisa Space), Lina Taybeh (Hidden Oasis),
Nico Dingemans (From Farm to Fork in Jordan), Chef Najwan Al Masri (The Precious)

Saffron Farm. Left to right: Mohammad Abdallah (Jordan News), Mr. Adel Suboh (Saffron Jordan) showing his produce to Chef Saleh Hamdan (JR The Wine Experience), Lina Dahbour (communications expert), Claude Zumot (Jordan Hotel Supplies)

A sustainable innovation of a biodegradable squeezable bottle by Dibeen
for easy dispensing of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For more related articles:23rd National Olive Festival: Celebrating tradition, solidarity, and support
● Proudly local, universal values
● A story in a single dish
● Why is local cuisine not appealing to Western Ammanis?
Ajloun trail proposed for ancient Roman olive trees

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