Sueca 2013, The Best Paella Valenciana in the World and a Truly International Competetion!


Sueca paellas 2013.

The  53rd International Competition for professional chefs and restaurants to cook the best Paella Valenciana in the world was held on Sunday last in Sueca.  Thirty invited restaurants from the 150 applicants took part on a hot day in the park by the station in the centre of town. The most notable element this year was the higher proportion of International contestants taking part!

No less than eight participants came from around the world as follows:-

Casa Paella Ltd , Nelson ,New Zealand.

Restaurant Chambao, Miami, USA.

Restaurant La Chaumiere, Font-Romeu, France.

Restaurant Ginza Espero II , Tokio, Japan.

Tomoko Kawabuchi, Osaka, Japan.

Paella Fella, West Sussex, England.

Restaurant Español Picasso, Hamburg, Germany.

Vale Paella, Tokio Japan.

So with all these foreigners taking part there was a fair chance that the Best Valencian Paella in the world may actually be cooked not   by someone from Valencia! Last years American winner it should be remembered didn´t really count because the chefs were exiled Valencians!

Chambao, Miami.

Chambao, Miami.

The competition has a very strict set of rules, requiring the competitor to cook a paella for fifteen, over wood, with ingredients provided by the organising committee. No additional ingredients are allowed, but of course you do not need to add the whole amount of each of those you are provided with. These are:-

Salt and water from Sueca. 

1.5kg, Valencian rice from Sueca.

1 Litre Olive Oil, DO Valencia.

4 dozen snails.

1.5kg of the three beans, garrofón, tavella and ferradura.

Ikg tomatos.

1 head of garlic.

Saffron in strands and powder form.

115gm of pimenton.

2 special chickens.

2 rabbits.

The day starts with the participants setting up in their individual `kitchens´ and then doing the preparation. Almuerzo is then eaten before the cooking starts around 11.45 with the paellas being submitted to the judges at 14.00pm

Edrick Corban-Banks from New Zealand had cooked last year as well and had come fifth. He was well into his preparation when I caught up with him and was hopeful of finishing further up the order. Edrick runs authentic paella demonstrations and Spanish cookery classes.

Edrick Corban-Banks, NZ.

Edrick Corban-Banks, NZ.

First timer was Nick Blythe, the `Paella Fella´ who cooks authentic Valencian Paellas in Turners Hill, West Sussex, in England. He was cooking with his sons and freely admitted at the end that it was much harder than they thought it would be! Nick has been holidaying in the Sueca area for some years and has fallen in love with the area.

Paella Fella, UK.

Paella Fella, UK.

The Japanese contingent came accompanied by the Consul, Mitsuyo Kajita, who was also a juror this year. Vale Paella and Tomoku Kawabuchi were also cooking here for the first time but Ginza Espero II had cooked last year and brought some colour and interesting utensils to the kitchen!

Chambao from Miami is a fusion restaurant advertising a range of cooking influences and styles open all day and specialising in Cuban, Basque, Tapas and Seafood dishes.

Restaurant Picasso from Hamburg may have had a bit of a shock when they received their ingredients. I see from their lunchtime menu on the website that their Paella Valenciana includes meat and fish!

Colour in the Ginza kitchen!

Colour in the Ginza kitchen!

La Chaumiere certainly has some nice food on its website but there was no sign of a paella, just a black rice risotto with lobster!

The Spanish entry to watch was of course El Redoli, home of Pepi Montero, a family restaurant on a bit of a roll at the moment having won the Alli Pebre competition in each of the last two years.

So the cooking begins, the crowds gather at each of the kitchens and watch the efforts as they progress. The crowd is entertained with free coco-cola and San Miguel from the sponsors…very welcome on a hot day and Tio Fredo, Valencia´s rock star belted out his homage to paella…a catchy little number!

Tio Fredo

Tio Fredo

As the cooking progressed it quickly emerged that this year the paellas would be more similar than last year. Indeed the depth of rice, distribution of ingredients and the colour was indistinguishable as the paellas were finished and walked to the judges table.

The judges were clearly going to have a hard job this year  they and would have to rely on all the elements of their decision-making process….in addition to the symmetry and colour the taste, the degree of cooking of the rice and the `socarrat´ ( the caremelised bit on the bottom which is most sought after) .

To the Judges!

To the Judges!

The rest of us went to the banqueting suite for a cold beer and anticipated the formal lunch and subsequent prize giving.

When it comes to the awards the ceremony was split in two. Before lunch retired chefs from the area received certificates recognising their contribution  and the judges a small sculpture recognising theirs. Amongst the judges was Guillermo Navarro from Wikipaella, recognising the contribution to the International Year of Valencian Paella that the organisation has made through social media to defending and promoting the dish.

After lunch the finalists all receive something and for the record the following were recognised with an `accésit´:-

Casa Paella NZ.

Jordi Freecook, Valencia.

Picasso, Hamburg.

El Redoli, El Palmar, Valencia.

Vale Paella , Tokio Japan.

The Winners! Posada Real.

The Winners! Posada Real.

The three main prizes were awarded as follows:-

Third, Chambao, Miami, USA.

Second, Casa Picanterra, Cullera, Valencia.

First, Posada Real de Santa Maria del Campo Rus, Cuenca, Spain.

And so, another year was over. The organisers, principally Jesus Melero of Restaurant Ri Ra in Sueca had managed another triumph. Maybe one of the foreigners will win in 2014!

Paella Valencia. Best Paella in the World!

Paella Valencia. Best Paella in the World!

 

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