Rene Redzepi Opens Up at Toronto’s Terroir Symposium

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TORONTO — Foodservice movers and shakers gathered at Arcadian Court in Toronto yesterday for a day-long celebration of food at the seventh-annual Terroir Symposium.

This year, Terroir’s theme focused on stories, memories and culture, and speakers regaled the audience with tales of family recipes, traditions and pivotal moments from their culinary careers. More than 22 speakers took the stage, including Magnus Nilsson, executive chef of Faviken in Sweden, Gillian Flies and Brent Preston, of The New Farm in Creemore, Ont., as well as Paul Rogalski, executive chef at Rouge in Calgary. They each shared stories about issues such as animal ethics, farming and gastronomy.

In the afternoon, a heated panel discussion touched on Canada’s culinary identity, when moderator Mitchell Davis, of The James Beard Foundation, asked if it makes sense that the NYC-based Momofuku is putting Toronto on the culinary map. Montreal Gazette fine-dining critic Lesley Chesterman and The UK-based Guardian food critic Joe Warwick butted heads. “We have been trying for a long time to establish our restaurant scene,” said Chesterman. “If Toronto’s top restaurant is run by a New Yorker, where does the rest of Toronto’s restaurant scene stand?” she asked, while Warwick argued that a restaurant should be judged on its merits.

Later, the crowd crammed into the main room as the lights dimmed for René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma in Copenhagen, which was named the world’s best restaurant last year by S.Pellegrino and Acqua. “Have you ever burned out?” Redzepi asked the crowd, before recalling a time when the joy of cooking escaped him. After Noma was nominated for the world’s best restaurant in 2010, Redzepi said he felt pressured to conform to expectations of a fine-dining restaurant and searched to rediscover what he liked about food. “What made it special was the connection with what we put in our mouths,” he said.

The event wrapped with the annual GE Monogram Terroir Awards for Excellence in Hospitality. Jeremy Bonia, of Newfoundland’s Raymonds, won in the Outstanding Beverage Professional category; Stephen Beckta, of Ottawa’s Gezellig, Beckta and Play Food and Wine, won in the Outstanding Service Professional category, and Connie DeSousa of Calgary’s Charcut Roast House, won in the Outstanding Chef Category.

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