The Geneva convention

Held on 24-26 January, Sirha Geneva may not have the footfall of its biennial parent show in Lyon, but it hosted some key industry events and was run with Swiss precision, reports Michael Jones

Taking place at Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland, the fourth edition of Sirha Geneva, the Franco-Swiss hotel, catering and food trade exhibition, attracted 12,000 attendees and 200 exhibitors to its 8,000sqm space. Those numbers may be dwarfed by the 3,045 exhibitors who walked the 130,000sqm of floors dedicated to parent show Sirha in Lyon last year, but Sirha Geneva is an important show boasting some key events in the gastronomy calendar.

“The French market in Switzerland may be small, but it’s an important, niche market,” says organiser Marie Odile Fondeur, director general of Sirha, citing that 70% of visitors at the show are Swiss nationals.

“There is a special spirit here in Geneva and a large concentration of hotels and ski resorts, as well as Michelin-starred restaurants. There is a high-level and a strong history of gastronomy in Switzerland. This is an important stage in the European selection of Bocuse d’Or,” says Fondeur.

While a springboard to national and international recognition, with a keen emphasis on developing talent, the Bocuse d’Or Switzerland was an opportunity for Swiss chefs to compete at Bocuse d’Or Europe, which be held at at the Sirha Budapest show in Hungary between 10-11 May. The Swiss national team was chaired by the renowned chef Franck Giovannini, (himself a Bronze Bocuse winner in 2007).

At the compettion, the four candidates were given five hours and 40 minutes to complete both a fish and meat dish. Fredy Girardet (Cuisinier du siècle, Féchy) and André Jaeger (Gastrionome, Stein am Rhein) were members of the honorary jury. The eventual winner of Le Bocuse d’Or Suisse was Filipe Fonseco Pinheiro, chef de partie of Restaurant Hôtel de Ville Crissier.

As well as the Swiss selection for Bocuse d’Or and the European selection of the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie (World Pastry Cup), the Sirha World Cuisine Summit addressed food trends and focused on innovation in the restaurant industry. Experts debated the practical consequences of these trends and discuss the management of restaurants in Switzerland.

Interviewed at the event, Norwegian chef Sven Erik Renaa said: “Trends will come and go, but you need to trust yourself. The big change for me is I really trust my producers. I have more and better producers close to us. That’s a totally different concept for me than from 15 years ago. Be open, that’s important.”

This year, the show also dedicated a new space to local Swiss products called ‘So terroir!’. Here, 20 highly-decorated Swiss chefs cooked up an array of recipes using produce from Geneva, Fribourg, Valais and Vaud.

Meanwhile, the Leaders Club International also presented the finals of the International Palm Awards, where ten entrants from six European countries battled it out to be recognised as the most innovative restaurant concept. The winner was Bunbao from Germany, while Russia’s Cook’kareku took silver and Persillé Maison de Viande of France scooped the bronze award.

Leaders Club International president Jürgen Strasser identified that the members from his organisation, operators ranging from 30-seat burger restaurants to 500-seat fine-dining establishments, “shared a vision” and were “successful people who have the same quality of energy and are all crazy in the same way.”

For Strasser, the highlight of the show in Geneva was seeing the ten nominees contesting the Leaders Club International award. “The ten concepts where from all over Europe and each one was remarkably good. It was great to see the owners presenting their concepts.”

While Sirha Geneva may have come to a close the Sirha programme of shows from GL Events continues to roll on in 2016, with Sirha Mexico on 10-12 February, Sirha Budapest on 9-11 May, Sirha Rio on 4-6 October and Sirha Istanbul on 24-26 November 2016.


Michael Jones

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