Championships, trends, ideas: the heart of HostMilano
With its array of challenges, professional development opportunities, and entertainment events, this year’s HostMilano was a huge global plaza at which trends in the fields of hospitality and catering were presented to give visiting professionals a clear picture of the “state of the art”. And that is invaluable for anyone looking for new solutions and services in the day-to-day running of their activities to help them quite literally “cater” to the needs of customers, old and new.
As you walked around the various stands you couldn’t help but notice how one trend in particular has gone from being a niche market to a prerequisite for all sectors: respect for the environment and sustainability now pervade the entire industry, from bars and restaurants to equipment and basic food ingredients.
The spaces presented were eye-catching and alluring, as befits a sector that has always been expected to provide an experience with great emotional appeal, and demonstrated how a product, machine or piece of equipment can be presented to attract even the most distracted client with a new idea.
Meanwhile there was excitement a-plenty at the various challenges organised for the fair. Who were the winners and who stood out in their respective professional sectors?
We Italians were of course delighted to stand out in the World Pastry Championships organised by FIPGC: the winning team here was Matteo Cutolo, Giuseppe Russi and Enrico Casarano. They fended off competition from 20 teams taking part in the specialisations: pralines, gelato, modern cakes and sculptures. Second-place China walked away with the artistic sculpture prize, and last year’s winners Japan came third. The best praline was designed by Thailand. The outright winner of the World Cake Design Championships run by FIP (the International Pastry Federation) was Jade Saducas from the United Arab Emirates. Her sugar-paste and sponge-cake creation, representing a Spanish sailing ship with a grinding machine wheeling around the rudder, told the story of coffee and cocoa’s journey around the world, and it beat creations by the USA’s Bryson Perkins and Poland’s Jowita Woszczynska, who took second and third place on the podium respectively. There were special prizes for titleholder Italy for the best Display Cake and for Trinidad and Tobago (best flavour), while Sri Lanka won the critic’s award, courtesy of Pastry Magazine.
Coffee, the focus of attention at SIC (the International Coffee Fair), is enjoying something of a boom right now, and all eyes were on the figure of the barista, someone with almost mystical qualities with the knowledge of how to turn the humble bean into an aromatic beverage. Leading professionals battled it out in various tournaments. They included the fourth edition of the contest to find the Italian Espresso Champion organised by INEI, the National Italian Espresso Institute and won this year by 21-year-old Fabio Dotti, from Brescia. After a year of competitions in eight countries involving 400 baristas, the four finalists (from China, Taiwan, Thailand and Italy) were required to demonstrate how to grind coffee to perfection and to prepare four espressos and four cappuccinos in just 11 minutes. “The great thing about this competition is that the sheer complexity of the task in hand really puts you to the test: you have to stay perfectly calm as you manage the equipment,” Dotti commented. Dotti also came second in the 5th Italian Café Grand Prix organised by AICAF, the Italian Coffee Masters Academy, and supported, for the finals by ALTOGA, the Lombardy Association of Coffee Roasters. The winner here was 37-year-old Andrea Villa, of the M10Café in Lesmo, who said on Facebook: “It’s been a tough few months, and hard, stressful work. I put myself to the test and set the bar half an inch higher every day. That paid off in the end.” Paolo Rossi came third, and Andrea Gramaglia won the prize for the “Best Coffee Drink”.
Coffee went hand in hand with latte art at the Milano Latte Art Challenge: after three days of competitions and nine disciplines, starting with simple, traditional forms and progressing to ever more complex figures and techniques, the competition for baristas developed by the Trismoka team, who were at HostMilano for the second time, announced the winner: South Korea’s Sung Jin Um Paul, who managed to beat Matteo Beluffi in the grand final.
Finally the 19th edition of the European Pizza Championship, organised by the magazine Pizza e Pasta Italiana crowned an Italian winner: Gianluca Concu of the “Firmino” pizzeria in Cavaglià (near Vercelli), who out-classed all the competition with a recipe based on porcini mushrooms, fresh courgette flowers, zucchini mousse, confit tomatoes, burrata and stracciatella. Alessandro Gagliardi of the “Picea di Levanto” pizzeria (La Spezia) came second and was followed by France’s Alain Michel of Rumilly in third place.