With a population of over 1 million, the city of Thessaloniki is one of the largest cities in southeastern Europe and the second major economic, industrial, and commercial center in Greece. The local gastronomy has evolved over the centuries since the area has always been a crossroad of different cultures. The authentic flavors take off thanks to the fresh ingredients from the fertile land and rich sea, all locally sourced and in season, blessed by a Mediterranean climate. The world-famous Greek olive oil, dairy products such as feta and yogurt, as well as quality fresh ingredients, can be found in the city. According to the city’s most recent data, Thessaloniki hosts more than 5,000 businesses offering food services with an annual turnover of USD 430 million and with the sector employing over 50,000 employees.
Thessaloniki acknowledges that gastronomy plays a crucial role in valorizing cultural and creative assets, supporting innovation, strengthening the identity of the city, opening export markets, and expanding professional networks, among others. For these reasons, in 2011 the city launched the largest and longest-running gastronomic festival in Greece, the “Thessaloniki Food Festival”. The annual Festival has managed to gain the interest of the international gastronomy community. It runs throughout the year, conducting partnerships with several different bodies, organizations, and communities.
As a Creative City of Gastronomy, the following steps will be important:
- Strengthening international cooperation by launching an open call for joint activities with other UCCN member cities in the field of gastronomy;
- Contributing to the development of creative hubs through the development of a gastronomy hub in the heart of the city;
- Developing a series of educational programmes to improve access to cultural life for vulnerable groups;
- Creating a mentoring programme for immigrants in gastronomy to foster social integration;
- Strengthening the creation, production, distribution and dissemination of cultural activities, goods and services by enriching the annual function of the Thessaloniki Food Festival; and
- Stimulating and enhancing the partnerships involving the public and private sectors and civil society through the farm to fork actions, with urban vineyards and gardens.