UNESCO Designates Tucson A World City of Gastronomy

Today, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced Tucson as one of the 47 newest members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN). The organization designated Tucson for the field of Gastronomy.

With only 116 Member Cities worldwide, the city of gastronomy designation is a great honor. Most impressive is that Tucson is the first city in the United States to be awarded the Gastronomy title. Other world cities included this year are: Parma, Italy; Denia, Spain; Burgos, Spain; and Phuket, Thailand.

In addition to Gastronomy, The UCCN, which was established in 2004 with the express purpose “to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development,” designates cities annually based upon a number of criteria in six other fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Music, Media Arts, Literature, Film, and Design.

It should be noted that the inclusion doesn’t come easy. Any city wishing to be noted a Creative City must complete the UCCN’s rigorous official application process. This is the second year the team from Tucson applied for the designation.

The team consisted of people from the City of Tucson, Edible Baja Arizona Magazine, Gary Nabhan from the University of Arizona, and others.

At a recent Food Writers’ Forum at the University of Arizona, City of Tucson Historic Preservation Officer Jonathan Mabry noted that the application questions were complex and allowed little space for elaboration. The team had to be concise while still emphasizing all of the elements that Tucson offers as a potential UCCN member. But Mabry also noted that they learned plenty from the first attempt and that UNESCO was helpful in highlighting ways they could improve the original proposal.

The inclusion isn’t just about a great and up and coming restaurant scene. More importantly, components considered are agriculture, both past and present, local history, efforts toward sustainability, food security, healthful eating, and an eye to the future.

Those of us who appreciate Tucson’s culinary bounty owe the team a big round of applause.

Rita Connelly is the author of "Lost Restaurants of Tucson," "Historic Restaurants of Tucson," and "Arizona Chimichangas" published by The History Press.