##Sunday, September 12 will see the International Contest of Valencian Paella in Sueca once again commence. The competition, which was held for the first time in 1961, will see forty chefs from all over the world choosing to cook the world’s best paella in the hopes of walking away with the first prize.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, last year’s competition was unfortunately cancelled, making this year’s competition that much more exciting and the first prize more sought after by those participating.

The coveted first prize is €2,500 and a certificate. Second prize is €1,500 and the third prize is €1,000. There are then special prizes to be awarded. However, those that win a prize are unable to participate the following year, as stated by the competition’s rules.

The rules of the competition state that any national or international professional chef can compete after receiving an invitation from the competition organisers. The competition rules also request that any participating chefs must represent either a catering or gastro-related company, which can then be proven with the correct documents.

The invitation given to take part in the competition is sent by the Organising Committee, consisting of the mayor and the councillor who is responsible for the competition alongside any advisory staff who have been selected by the committee. This year, forty chefs have been picked by the Organising Committee, comprising of three local contestants, fourteen from the community of Valencia, thirteen Spanish contestants, and ten international chefs. These forty chefs are each allowed a kitchen assistant during the competition. The forty chefs that are picked every year are chosen as a result of the various semi-finals that are held to dictate who ends up taking part in the final competition.

The International Paella Competition stimulates that each chef must cook a paella that can be split into fifteen portions. The paella cooked is from a recipe that has been prepared by the Organising Committee and approved by the ‘Club de Jefes de Cocina de la Comunidad Valenciana’ (Head Chefs).

The purpose of the paella competition is to increase international recognition of Valencian paella alongside establishing high-quality standards in the restaurant and food industry. As a way to establish these high standards, those judging the competition will be looking at the cooking of the rice, the taste, the colour, the symmetry of the ingredients, and the qulaity of the ‘Socarrat’.

Historically, the International Paella Competition is held in Sueca every year. The competition originated in 1961 where it coincided with the sudden increase in tourism and gastro competitions. During this time, Sueca was celebrating the 600th anniversary of the ‘Troballa de la Mare de Déu.’ The mayor at the time decided to take advantage of this monumental anniversary and thus a paella festival was created. As a result of this new festival, the paella competition was created to be held alongside it. The competition has now been taking place annually for over fifty years.

The festival and the competition gained prominence over the years. After being held for five years, the festival was revealed to be a festival of tourist interest.

Then in 1990, twenty-nine years after the competition first began, the invite to participate in the competition was extended to those internationally…in Europe, America and Japan. By extending the invitation to more chefs, the competition became more competitive with each chef hoping that they will win that competing year.

The first ever winner of the Paella Competition was from Valencia. The chef’s name was Jacinto Perea and competed on behalf of the Hotel Astoria restaurant. The most recent winner, who won the competition in 2019, was David Domingo from Teruel. Winners of the competition have however originated from a range of different locations. The question is, where will this year’s International Paella Competition first place winner come from?

Paella Recipe

This recipe is made to serve four people.
• 400 grams of Sueca rice.
• 800 grams of chicken.
• 400 grams of rabbit.
• 12 ‘vaquetes’ (snails).
• 400 grams of beans (green beans).
• 150 grams of tavella (white kidney beans).
• 300 grams of beans (haricot beans).
• Olive Oil.
• One garlic clove peeled and chopped.
• One ripe tomato.
• One spoonful of paprika.
As an optional choice, you can also add salt, sprigs of rosemary and saffron in threads.
1. First, cut the chicken and rabbit into regular size pieces. Then, season them with some salt.
2. Put some olive oil on to heat in the pan and slowly fry the pieces of chicken and rabbit, until they are well done.
3. Then take the green beans, tavella and haricot beans and cut them into smaller pieces. Put the beans to the side.
4. Next take the tomato, cut it into smaller pieces and grate it so that you have crushed tomato, similar to a puree.
5. Now, take the beans, crushed tomato, garlic and paprika and fry them in the pan, alongside the previously cooked meat. (If you are choosing to add saffron then also add the saffron to the pan).
6. The next step is to add two litres of water to the pan. Whilst doing this, add the vaquetes (snails) to the pan.
7. Leave the ingredients in the pan to boil for ten minutes.
8. After ten minutes, add the rice to the frying pan and leave to cook on a high heat for a further eight minutes.
9. The final step is to turn the heat down after the eight minutes have finished and leave to simmer for another ten minutes. This is so that it can reach the satisfying point of‘Socarrat.’

‘Socarrat’ refers to the crust that forms at the bottom of the pan when cooking paella.

Report by Rhianydd Sword
Article copyright 24/7 Valencia

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