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EXPO 2015 Milan: Food, Glorious Food

Expo 2015 was the first World Exposition centered around food. The theme, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, was twofold; to showcase international food culture and also to address deeper concerns such as sustainability and food security worldwide. Some countries used the event to promote tourism through traditional cuisine, while others demonstrated innovative technologies related to food cultivation.  Events, panels, and cooking demonstrations changed daily.

The Italian pavilion featured the on-site production of Grana Padano cheese, complete with its own dairy. Cocoa Cluster combined 6 nations in a pavilion dedicated to chocolate: Cameroon, Cuba, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Sao Tome and Principe. Tasting and purchasing chocolate was highly encouraged. The Spanish Pavilion included a hydroponic strawberry farm, and Israel demonstrated a drip irrigation system for cherry tomatoes.

The USA Pavilion was named “American Food 2.0”.  Fairgoers walked into the pavilion on a boardwalk repurposed from Coney Island after Hurricane Sandy. The Great American Foodscape featured videos describing American food, and another section broke it down by region. There was a rooftop bar, and, at the back of the pavilion, a fleet of food trucks collectively called Food Truck Nation.  At the front was the main architectural feature; a football-field-length “Vertical Farm” featuring a variety of crops.  Similar to the vertical planting wall at Israel’s “Fields of Tomorrow” Pavilion, it was thought-provoking and eye-catching.

2015 was Uruguay’s first Expo. Their three-story pavilion was designed by the architects of INAC (National Meat Institute) and was named “Life grows in Uruguay”. Visitors were treated to a short documentary on the history of the country, and information about the quality of its agro-intelligent food production. But the highlight of the pavilion was the “Uruguay Natural Gourmet Grill”, which received more than 80,000 diners throughout the exhibition, 30,000 of which participated in an exercise that traced the food from cattle farm to the dinner table. 

Because the Italian government temporarily relaxed some food import restrictions, the Zimbabwean delegation was permitted to serve crocodile, zebra, and python burgers.  Initially, a full ton of crocodile meat was brought in, but several more tons had to be ordered due to high demand.  The lines at the Zimbabwe pavilion were some of the longest at the fair. (The crocodile meat came from highly regulated farms and did not include endangered crocodile species)

Benefitting from the same relaxed regulations, the Japanese pavilion offered tastes of  sashimi made from fugu, a highly poisonous puffer fish that is banned in the EU and many other parts of the world. It is deadly when not prepared properly by a trained and licensed chef.  Japan was allowed to import only a few kilos of the fish, which was consumed in a matter of days. There were no reported incidents.

Although Belgium was blocked from importing insects to serve to Expo visitors, the supermarket in the Future Food District sold packaged grasshoppers. Built by Coop, Italy’s largest retail chain, the “supermarket of the future” demonstrated how digital technology is capable of changing the way that people shop for food. Interactive screens suspended above the shelves provided information about the products such as geographic origin, nutritional profile, and carbon footprint.  Shoppers could set items on countertops that interacted with the screens as well. Shelves were re-stocked by robotic arms.

Expo 2015 has been described as a food Olympics, or a gigantic food court. Expo 2020 will be a foodie haven for six months, offering creative fusion cuisines, gastronomic tours, future-shaping food tech, and much-loved local restaurants. Visitors will find several outlets of Domino’s across the site: the global pizza giant was recently named Expo 2020’s Official Pizza Provider!

Joan Thompson, Expo Sales Executive
Ya’lla Tours USA

Posted on November 21, 2019