Spanish food expert María José Sevilla
Food & Wine Writers
Translation: Adrienne Smith©ICEX
A lifetime promoting the flavors of Spain in the United Kingdom. For more than three decades, our colleague María José Sevilla has been directing the promotional programs and projects for Spanish food, wine and gastronomy in the United Kingdom. Now, on the heels of her well-deserved retirement, let's take a moment to review her successful and much-lauded professional trajectory.
María José Sevilla's long career in the Economic and Commercial Office of Spain in London began in 1974. Since then, she has tireless dedicated herself to the world of Spanish food and agriculture products, and gastronomy.
María José's early career in the Commercial Office led to a specialization in fresh products, and, starting in 1982, the INFE Promotion Center (the precursor to ICEX Spain Trade and Investment) created by this office allowed her to shift her focus to processed foods, gastronomy and wine. She was the first Spaniard to obtain the "Diploma of Wine Studies" given by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.
From this point on, María José Sevilla was chosen to occupy a number of different posts: Head of Industry Information, Head of Fine Food Development and Gastronomy, coordinator of Foods and Wines from Spain, and adjunct director of Foods from Spain, among others. In 1996, she was named director of Foods from Spain, the department responsible for promoting the image of Spanish gastronomy in the United Kingdom.
In 1998, ICEX decided to combine the food and wine areas of the Spanish Economic and Commercial Office in London, naming María José Sevilla the director of the ensuing department.
Over the past several years, María José had taken on a growing role in the creation, development and management of projects, as well as in market analysis and the creation of ties with the diverse sectors that comprise the food and wine industries.
In her first book, "Life and Food in the Basque Country" (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989), María José champions the idea that regional Spanish cuisine can only be understood when family, local traditions, history and lifestyle are taken into consideration.
In addition to the work she has carried out in defense of the interests of Spanish exporters at the Economic and Commercial Office of Spain in London, María José's name has frequently been associated with the world of radio and television, thanks to her work as a scriptwriter and presenter of a series of programs aired in London (London Weekend TV) and other parts of the country (Ulster Televisión, Tynes Tees and Yorkshire Television). In 1990 she proposed a series of five episodes on BSB TV entitled "Plat de Jour", which centered on the Spanish ingredients that were becoming available in Britain.
In honor of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and in collaboration with ICEX, the BBC decided to create a series of six episodes intended to introduce the British people to regional Spanish cuisine. The result was "Spain on a Plate", six documentaries directed by Dick Forster and presented by María José Sevilla.
In April of 1993, "Spain on a Plate" received the "Glenfiddich Award" for the best television show about gastronomic culture. In February of 1994 in Madrid, María José Sevilla received the Journalism Award from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and the Environment, for her articles on wine and food. Her book "Mediterranean Flavours" was published by Pavilion Books that same year.
María José's efforts for the promotion of Spanish cuisine have not been limited to the United Kingdom. In fact, she has also participated in activities and culinary presentations in Japan, Australia, Canada and particularly the United States, where her name appears on the list of visiting chefs at the Culinary Institute of America in Greystone, California.
For the past several years, María José Sevilla has collaborated on numerous British and American publications, including "The Cook’s Book of Ingredients" (Dorling Kindersley), "The Oxford Symposium Cookery Book" and "The Encyclopedia of Street Food" (ABC – CLIO) in Chicago.
In 2011, she once again collaborated with BBC TV, this time as a consultant for the series "Rick Stein's Spain", a fascinating journey through Spanish food, wine, cuisine and traditions. She is currently working on a new book entitled, "A History of Spanish Food and Wine", which will be published by Reacktion Books in London in 2018. In December of 2016, prestigious British magazine "The Drinks Business" named María José Sevilla one of the 15 most influential women in the world of Spanish wine.
Now enjoying her retirement, María José's goal is to continue supporting the objectives that defined her more than 40-year career: those of promoting the gastronomy, wines and foods from Spain all over the world.
Thank you for everything, María José!