In the year 958 the Andalusian physician Albucasis, born in the vicinity of Cordoba City and considered one of the fathers of modern surgery, was tasked by the caliph Abderraman III to help King Sancho I the Crassus to lose weight. King Sancho had just been deposed as king of Leon as a consequence of suffering from morbid obesity. Albucasis, together with the Jewish doctor Hasday ibn Saprut, prescribe a dietary treatment for Sancho. As a result, he became the slender gentleman who, two years later, reconquered the kingdom of Leon.
In those days, Al-andalus was an intellectual and cultural focal point, and Córdoba city its best exponent and a gastronomic enclave recognised and esteemed worldwide. The intensive use of vegetables and spices in the preparation of dishes change the eating habits of the Roman - Gothic Spain, eventually the Andalusian gastronomy became the main reference for the Islamic world, above the Persian and Byzantine.
Nowadays, this heritage still offers great potential, why not exploit it? Our country has the necessary elements to develop a halal food hub within the triangle formed by the cities of Cordoba, Malaga and Granada. We have at our disposal a dynamic agriculture; quality products; excellent infrastructure; a reputable and easily recognizable brand (Al-Ándalus); an institution that issues the halal certifications (The Halal Institute, Córdoba) and three cities with strong cultural and economic ties to the Islamic world.
According to Thomson Reuters, in the year 2013, the Muslim consumers spent $140,000 million in travel and tourism, the 12.7 per cent of global spending on tourism. It is expected that in 2018 this amount exceeds the $181,000 million.
One of the projects, which might help to capture these resources and underpin and boost the development of the halal hub would be the implementation of a Halal Haute Cuisine training centre for professionals: the Al-àndalus Culinary Centre. , we have the essential ingredients: an exceptional raw material (certified Halal in many cases); an accredited gastronomic offer (the Mediterranean diet, which has been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2010); a broad spectrum of Michelin star awarded chefs and restaurants (eight restaurants awarded with 3 stars, 17 restaurants awarded with two stars, and 134 restaurants awarded with 1 star in 2014); the virtual absence of Halal chefs and restaurants awarded with Michelin stars in the world (Rasoy and Benares, awarded two stars in 2014); ten restaurants honoured among the best 100 in the world, three of them among the top ten; and the successful experience of the Basque Culinary Centre.
In Andalusia, the halal gastronomy could emulate the Basque experience model. We simply need to create a space in which Spaniard top chefs use halal certified goods and apply their creativity in order to develop new dishes and to train the future halal Michelin stars. In this case, the international advisory board could be formed by Spanish chefs whom have been awarded Michelin stars. Such as; David Munoz (Diverxo), Paco Roncero (Casino de Madrid) or Paco Morales (Noor), and international chefs, such as Vineet Bhatia (Rasoi), Atul Kochhar (Benares) or Mansour Memarian (The Chedi) ,among others.
Its implementation would generate opportunities for our main industry, tourism. It would enable the country to position itself as a Muslim-friendly destination. This would result in the arrival of tourists from Muslim-majority countries. As a result, Spanish chefs and restaurants would be able to open new paths, explore new markets and expand their customer base. Why not follow the successful model of the Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio and open some of our best restaurants in Dubai or Kuala Lumpur? Additionally, it would allow the chefs trained in our centres to spread the advantages and benefits of our food and gastronomy, with the subsequent boost for our exports.
Two essential ingredients to ensure the success of this recipe: there are 1,600 million Muslims in the world (in 2030 there will be more than 2,200 million Muslim in the world) and, according to Dinar Standard, 67% of the Muslim tourists point out gastronomy as one of the most important aspects to enjoy travel experience. Combining these ingredients properly, we could prepare a very succulent menu in order to feed our economy. Are we really going to miss this opportunity?
Tomas Guerrero Blanco is a researcher at EsadeGeo.