When I was invited to be a judge for the fifth Pasta World Championship, I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there were chefs coming from all over the world and I knew that Barilla was the sponsor but beyond that I was blissfully ignorant.
When I arrived at The Academia Barilla in Parma on a muggy Friday morning I was greeted by other members of the ‘technical jury’. I was informed that between 9.10am and 12.40pm I would be trying seventeen dishes from a truly global collection of chefs. They had travelled from the United States (Maine and Orlando), Australia, France, Turkey, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Croatia, China, Japan and Switzerland – all with their eye on the prize. We were asked to judge the dishes on a range of criteria that included how well the pasta was cooked, presentation, overall appeal of the dish, pairing of the ingredients and Italian authenticity. Our challenge was to choose four dishes to go through to the final the following day.
The dishes that followed gave me a great insight into how pasta has been adopted by cuisines around the world. While pasta remains a quintessentially Italian product, the way that both professional and amateur chefs cook it and match it with ingredients clearly varies all around the world.