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Culinary Treats at Zamat Festival

Major topics of the conference at ZAMAT Festival included the most recent culinary trends, gastronomy as a factor in rural development, and the importance of functional foods and catering services. At the event, UD won the first prize for its “debreceni páros” that was developed at the university.

- There is a growing body of knowledge, as well as research and innovation literature in the fields of food industry and nutritional science. However, sometimes the available information is not always genuine. One of the objectives of the conference was to clarify facts based on scientific evidence. We are all responsible for protecting and preserving our gastronomic heritage. This duty offers opportunities and presents challenges for us. In addition to transferring knowledge, the mission of the University of Debrecen also includes transferring cultural values, of which the preservation of culinary culture is an integral part - explained István Szűcs, head of the Institute of Business and Management Sciences of the Faculty of Economics and Business of UD, at the opening ceremony of the event.

István Szűcs pointed out that the university is connected to the area in many ways, being involved in nutritional and food sciences, the agronomical aspects of food production, food development, and marketing research related to food consumption. Besides, the conference held at ZAMAT Festival was profoundly connected to the third mission of the University of Debrecen. In his presentation, István Szűcs also talked about the role of gastronomy in rural development.

- Despite the uniformization that can be observed in consumer culture as a result of globalisation, Hungarian gastronomy has been able to remain unique and distinct. It is interesting to consider the implications of young people preferring high-quality Hungarian palinka to foreign whiskey at university pubs to the countryside. Highly diverse, unique and constantly changing, gastronomy is one of the most dynamic sectors in Hungary today. It is a major challenge  to systematically explore, archive and vitalize our culinary heritage. Effective marketing strategies and activities are crucial. The protection of our  heritage should be based on a harmonised strategy that also serves the interests of rural areas. Our diverse gastronomy might greatly help disadvantaged towns, villages and areas in catching up. Local production of food at farms combined with short supply chains is equally connected to the economic, social, cultural and environmental pillars of rural development. It involves using local resources, including lands, and provides jobs, and therefore steady income, for local people, thus reducing, for instance, the migration of labour force from rural regions. Micro and small businesses, most operated by families, strengthen the capacity of rural areas to sustain and retain their population. This is one of the reasons why it is important to support local initiatives for example by establishing organisations like the country-level Hajdú-Bihar Megyei Kézműves Élelmiszer Klaszter and the Hajdú- Bihar Megyei Termeltető és Értékesítő Kereskedőház Zrt. - explained István Szűcs.

In the case of small and big food production factories, besides competition, we can also talk about mutually fruitful cooperation. Both production forms have their roles in the Hungarian food economy, and both are needed in the countryside. The innovative, experimental activities of small businesses highly enrich our gastronomy, and influence the development trends of big companies as well - pointed out a participant at the roundtable talk of the conference.

- The quantity approach still dominates over the quality approach in Hungary. It is necessary to shape the mindset of and educate costumers, in which school education and catering service play a crucial role - emphasized Tibor Szólláth.

The president of the Chamber of Agriculture of Hajdú-Bihar County pointed out that about 1.5 million people are served by catering services in Hungary.

-  A balanced diet that is in line with expert recommendations is especially important in childhood, as the habits and patterns developing in this period largely determine the individual’s dietary habits in adulthood. Children can be educated to become conscious consumers, who keep a healthy diet and buy quality food products - explained Tibor Szólláth.

László Stündl,
Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and Environmental Management thinks that the need for a paradigm change is also backed up by health assessments carried out in recent decades, which have identified unhealthy diets as one of the main causes of serious illnesses. A growing interest, increasingly health-conscious behaviour, and the various dietary trends all highlight the importance and timeliness of this topic.

- A balanced and healthy diet protects, strengthens and optimizes our life processes. A diet that helps maintain health or supports healing can involve functional foods, which are made using biologically active ingredients. Besides their nutritional benefits, these foods also help us remain healthy, improve our wellbeing, and reduce the risk of certain diseases and conditions. This category contains exclusively food, and no dietary supplements available in capsules. Using these new-generation food products makes it easier to design special diets tailored to the needs of people living with food intolerance or of athletes. Currently, UD produces functional food products from paprika seed oil or sour cherry, the latter will soon be available in shops - said László Stündl, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and Environmental Management.

The debreceni páros sausage developed by the Institute of Food Technology of UD achieved huge success at ZAMAT Festival.

- Containing meat (74%), bacon (25%) and other ingredients (1%), the soy- and gluten-free product was developed and is produced at the food-manufacturing facility of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and Environmental Management. It is a great accomplishment that our product won both the public and experts at the very first festival it was presented. Our debreceni páros was judged to be the best by the expert jury, in the competition of restaurants, and by festival visitors as well. It proves that UD’s Unifood products are delicious, represent high quality, and may be popular among customers, too - said Gerda Diósi, assistant professor at the Institute of Food Technology.

The dishes presented by foreign students of UD also attracted visitors, who had an opportunity to taste 60 dishes of 20 nations on Sunday. All nations offered two traditional main courses and one dessert. All income collected at the event called “Taste the world - 60 dishes from 20 nations at Zamat Festival” was offered for charity by the students.

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