Terroir Returns to Toronto to Celebrate Canadian Food Culture

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TORONTO — Chefs, food writers and foodies converged on Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for the 2017 edition of the Terroir Symposium. This year’s theme, Our Home and Native Land, paid homage to Canada’s 150th birthday by exploring regional food trends, iconic ingredients and Canada’s place on the world food stage.

Emceed by chef and television personality Matty Matheson, the day began by honouring Canada’s Indigenous population. Lisa Odjig Mchayle, a two-time world champion hoop dancer performed a traditional dance, which was followed by a smudge ceremony led by led by historian/wisdom keeper Philip Cote. The plenary sessions led the crowd on a cultural journey — starting with the Indigenous creation and connection story of “the Trickster” — which highlighted the population’s deep connection to food and explored how modern conflict has impacted today’s indigenous population. Food Day Canada founder Anita Stewart wrapped up the morning session by pulling together the many influences that have shaped the nation’s culinary landscape.

Concurrent break-out sessions filled the day, covering three major themes: agriculture and fishing; diversity; and youth mentorship.

Here is a brief wrap-up of some of the Terroir 2017 sessions:

What Terroir Tells Us
In the session titled, What Terroir Tells Us, attendees heard from winemaker Shauna White of Adamo Estate Winery about how the relative newcomer has conquered the challenges of growing grapes in Orangeville, Ont. — where a colder climate and varying terrain are part of everyday life. Author, wine and cheese expert Ursula Heinzelmann of Berlin, Germany offered an outsiders view of the Canadian wine landscape, followed by Tarlynn Liv Parker’s photographic interpretation of B.C.’s terroir. The session wrapped up with well-known writer and “food sleuth” Marion Kane sharing the history of her top three iconic Canadian food picks — the butter tart, Macintosh apples and, of course, poutine.

The Road Map to Exceptional
During this session, four world-travellers shared how their experiences have shaped their perspective and offered inspirational ideas and key takeaways. The session featured Benjamin Ryan, chief commercial officer, Air North; culinary travel writer and cookbook author Naomi Deguid; Ivy Knight, writer, Munchies; and Aman Dosanj, founder of The Paisley Notebook.

Duguid highlighted how, as westerners, we could learn a great deal from the food traditions and attitudes towards food that are found in many less-developed regions/countries, including the Caucasus. She identified frugality and thoughtfulness — or understanding of the labour and processes required to attain our food — as key lesson we could benefit from. “Chefs in the prosperous west who are trying to lower food costs and maximize flavour have been doing some of this — relearning old ways and traditional home-cook strategies,” she explained. “The kinds of strategies, that people in other places have developed because they’ve been forced to be creative, are something that we can all learn from.”

Dosanj highlighted food as a global unifier by sharing stories from her recent eight-month, 10-country adventure while working on her “food-memory project.” “For me food is memories. No matter who you are, what race, religion, sexual identity, where ever you’re from, everyone has a food memory because everyone has to eat,” she explained. “I wanted to help people take the time to remember…[because] if we don’t start sharing and passing things down, we’re going to lose a lot of our culture.”

Cooking up our Future
In the session “Cooking up our Future,” Lulu Cohen-Farnell, founder of Real Food For Real Kids and Jean-François Archembault, founder of La Tablée des Chefs, spoke to the importance of teaching children and youth to understand and appreciate food. Through each of their organizations, these speakers work to expand the palates of Canada’s young people while providing them with a greater understanding and appreciation for food — especially healthy foods.

Following these presentations, Food Network’s Bob Blumer moderated a discussion with two young chefs on the topic of mentorship and developing the next generation of young chefs. Justin Daniel Tse, executive chef at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge in Nunavut and Alex Hon, sous chef at West Restaurant in Vancouver discussed their journey to reach this point in their careers and the transition from mentee to mentor.

Canadians in a Foreign Land
Sarah Musgrave, executive editor of enRoute, moderated a panel focused on the experiences of Canadian chefs who have made their mark on culinary scenes beyond Canada. The panel featured Kyumin Hahn, Research and Development chef at Kadeau in Copenhagen; Hugh Acheson, Atlanta-based chef, restaurateur and author; and Daniel Burns, chef/owner of Luksus in New York, as well as Nicolai Nørregaard, head chef and partner at Kadeau, who offered an outsider’s perspective.

The Canadian panellists all agreed that travel is key to the development of young chefs. Hahn noted its importance in developing specialized skills beyond the basics taught in school. Burns added that these new skills and experiences open the doors to a wider range of opportunities when chefs decide to return home. However, Acheson stated that “there is a point where travel has to stop and you have to open your own restaurant.”

For more coverage of Terroir 2017, check out the July/August issue of Foodservice and Hospitality magazine coming out soon.

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