SOME 15 students of Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences are currently in Negros Occidental to explore and experience the province’s culinary offerings.

The Italian students, along with their professor Rowan Hallet, were welcomed by Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Provincial Supervising Tourism Operations Officer Cristine Mansinares during a courtesy visit at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City Friday.

Mansinares said the immersion trip, wherein the visitors experience the culture and different cuisine of the province, runs until today. The visit is facilitated by the Slow Food Negros.

“They want to discover our ways of preparing food and even catch our marine resources,” Mansinares said, adding that part of the itinerary is exploring Slow Fish, or the province’s concept of sustainable way of catching fish.

Through their five-day visit in Negros Occidental, the culinary students from Italy aim to discover abundant and endemic ingredients in the province, which are “forgotten” or not being used already.

They want to enroll these “food items” to the Ark of Taste containing the list of “vanishing” or endangered ingredients that need attention for preservation, Mansinares said.

Batwan fruit, a souring ingredient endemic in Negros and some provinces in Panay Island, is among the local ingredients already included in the food catalogue designed to preserve at-risk foods that are sustainably produced, unique in taste, and part of a distinct ecoregion.

“Having been included in the Ark of Taste, our local ingredients are getting a boost since more preservation attention is given,” Mansinares said, adding that restaurants and households are urged to use these raw materials so that farmers will continue to produce them.

Earlier, Mansinares said the Provincial Government is banking on the food sector to further strengthen the province’s tourism industry by inviting more tourists to come and taste the local delicacies.

On January 23, a Filipino-American chef based in New York also visited the province and committed to help promote truly Negros ingredients by using these locally-sourced raw materials in creating dishes being showcased in various events abroad.

Chef Joel Javier, along with his Negrense wife Rachel, wanted to know the unique local ingredients as well as the different agricultural produce that can be a source of inspiration for them in creating dishes with Negrense touch.