Corporate executive chef Ted Corrado of The Drake Hotel in Toronto is a long-time advocate for local ingredient sourcing and has built the menus at the Drake around seasonality and his belief in supporting local farmers. “Local food and seasonality go hand and hand and have become the foundation of how I built the menus at the Drake,” he says. “I look at what’s around me and what my suppliers have on hand — it’s very easy to build my menus that way.”
Corrado’s first phone call of the day comes from his suppliers touching base about what they have available. “I’ve been fortunate to forge these relationships over the years and [my suppliers] know how excited I get about having the first crack at things and being as hyper-seasonal as possible.”
The challenge, Corrado says, is that some purveyors are so small, they don’t have access to cities such as Toronto. “They make the stuff and sell it there…we aren’t talking industrial farming — it’s small farmers who maybe have a100 acres to grow on and they aren’t driving things into the city two or three times a week. I’ve turned that around and I go to them and bring ingredients back myself. It gives me access to something unique and special.”
But not all chefs are that lucky. According to Genrys Goodchild, Marketing and Communications manager at 100km Foods Inc., there has long been a massive barrier to chefs ordering local food. In response, 100km Foods Inc. was formed 10 years ago. “Even though agriculture is a gigantic part of Ontario’s GDP, chefs were having a hard time accessing that and there was a real need to connect farms with chefs. So we collaborated with farms and chefs to determine how best to serve both their needs.”
In its first year, the company did a few hundred thousand in sales. In 2017, it logged approximately $6 million in sales, worked with more than 85 farms and had more than 250 active restaurant accounts.
“There is a gap to be filled by suppliers who act as bridge between farmers and restaurants and 100km Food is helping fill that gap,” says Corrado. “But there is still more room.”
Goodchild agrees. “There’s still a lot of room to do more regional programs and inter-regional trading. There’s a move to strengthen regional imports and exports so that we can maximize the percentage of local food we’re consuming and distributing in Ontario.”