Our first day of the 34th WACS congress started off very early. With just enough sleep to clear the Pisco from our brains, TY was out to a wonderful market visit at six am and I was off to our continental meeting at seven.
The continental meeting was good, unfortunately for us our Director John Sloane was not able to attend the congress and so we in Asia were not able to meet with him directly. Alan Palmer was his proxy, but was not really able to follow through on our comments or suggestions. Not of much surprise, the Asian countries present were concerned about much of the same issues. What is WACS doing for us, why is it so expensive, how can we get more bang for our buck, out of WACS.
Glenn Austin The Pac-Rim Director did his best to answer concerns, and did make a very strong case that as member countries of WACS the value we get will be largely controlled by our activity in WACS. He encouraged all of us to further our participation in area, Continental, Regional and World events, committees and meetings.
It was noted that there is a surprising lack of proxies for Asia with only a handful of countries present and only Hong Kong bringing a Proxy (for Macau). I suggested that for future congresses we should coordinate our efforts better to ensure that every Asian country has a vote and a voice at the congress. Hong Kong, Singapore and many other countries would be more than willing to carry proxies and do our utmost to represent the wishes of other countries at WACS.
The opening ceremony and parade of flags was very well done at this congress. Music was provided by the Santiago Police Orchestra who provided the march for the Parade of flags and later several wonderful jazz renditions for our entertainment. TY did a perfect job of carrying Hong Kong colours up to the dais you should all be proud of this young chef; she shows the world that Hong Kong has a very bright future in the culinary world.
After several short but poignant speeches from our leaders and hosts regarding the role of chefs in the world, and the importance of our work to society, a quorum was achieved with 60 member countries present.
We then approved and welcomed all the proposed new member countries: Bosnia Herzegovina, Republic of Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Peru, Namibia, Micronesia, Uzbekistan, and affiliate member Honduras.
After a delicious Chilean seafood lunch buffet we spent the afternoon going over the proposed changes to the by-laws and then voting on each item. All proposed by-laws were approved and as the Hong Kong and Macau representative I only voted no to 2.6.7 which was a proposal that a member country association can be removed form WACS if they are inactive. My objection was that the by-law was vague and there seemed no clear method to eject these underperforming members. While it may be appropriate to eject such member societies it seems to me that such action should be voted on at the congress every 2 years. As written it seemed to me that in its current form it could be left to the presidium to decide, which I think would be potentially problematic. Nonetheless every bylaw including this one was passed with a majority of votes. I will bring a full report of the bylaw changes to our President and executive committee.
After an extended series of business reports (one highlight being that WACS continued to be financially stable even in this difficult economic time), we headed out to the gardens of Casa Piedra for the official photo ceremony. It was a scorching 33 degrees in the Chilean afternoon sunshine, but we still managed to have plenty of fun taking both a massive group photo and again a photo of the women in WACS, this perhaps counter to the idea of welcoming and including, rather than segregating, diversity.
It was a good start to a long committee, but without a doubt the high point of the day was the Dinner at Castillo Hidalgo hosted by the President of Chile. This was a true state dinner with a wonderful culinary journey of Chilean agricultural products prepared by both the chefs of ACHIGA and the Chilean Toques Blanche. The food was superb and Senora Presidenta gave us a wonderful welcome, as a trained dietician she fully understood and deeply appreciated our work and vocation. Her speech was brilliant and we were all deeply honored to be given such high praise from the head of state.
With a belly full of Chilean cuisine a head full of Chilean wine (and more Pisco), and an aura of the chef as a fundamental cornerstone of global society, we headed back to our hotels for a short rest before our early morning start of the many business issues to be discussed during day two.
Buenos Noches from 34 degrees south 70 degrees west and 510 meters up.
January 25, 2009