Terroir Symposium Explores the Economics of Local

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TORONTO — Foodservice-industry professionals and food writers recently gathered at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for the 12th-annual Terroir Symposium. Managed by the Culinary Tourism Alliance (CTA) — a long-time partner of the event — this year’s instalment focused on the theme of “Terroirnomics: the powerful economics of local.”

With a roster of more than 60 speakers, the 2018 program featured keynote speakers, breakout sessions, master classes, networking opportunities and, of course, plenty of food and drink. The day kicked off with a welcome from Rebecca Mackenzie, president & CEO of CTA, who introduced the morning’s keynote speakers, Carolina Avaria, president of Les Clefs D’or Canada, who spoke to the importance of exceptional service; Dr. Sylvain Charlebois from Dalhousie University, who addressed the importance of investing in local-food systems; Elena Arzak, chef/co-owner of the three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain; and Skift and Skift Table’s Jason Clampet, who shared top trends impacting the industry.

This year, the symposium’s breakout sessions were broken into three different categories — Marketing + Partnerships, Technology + Innovation and Financial + Corporate Health — with three sessions taking place within each category. Here is a brief wrap-up of some of the Terroir 2018 sessions:

Wellness in the Workplace
In a series of 10-minute talks, speakers discussed their strategies, experience and recommendations pertaining to developing a healthy and high-performing workplace culture. Juanita Dickson and Angela Lawrence of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group highlighted the company’s practice of recognizing, rewarding and incentivising its staff, as well as the importance of hiring the right people.

Phil Mondor, president & CEO of Tourism HR Canada addressed strategies for coping with the labour shortage. “If you don’t have the people with the right skills…your business will [suffer],” he stressed. Lizzie Moore and Christa Bruneau also shared their experience in building their team and a successful business in their respective ventures — Oceanstone Seaside Resort and Feast Café Bistro.

Economics of Local 1.0
In this session, three speakers made short presentations on achieving financial success that also supports environmental, social and cultural “bottom lines.” As Diane Hodgins, CFO of Fogo Island Inn and Shorefast Social Enterprises Inc. reminded attendees, “Economics is a social science…Where we have real power is in macroeconomics and where we spend our money.”

Bob Desautels, founder of Guelp, Ont.-based The Neighbourhood Group made a similar point, highlighting the power and prevalence of “buycotting” — the act of deliberately purchasing products and services from companies whose values align with your own. Finally, Isabel Soares highlighted the success of her Portugal-based business, Fruta Feia, which sells “ugly-produce” baskets; diverting waste and providing farmers with additional income.

A Food Pic is Worth a Thousand Words
Olga Badowska, a Warsaw, Poland-based journalist moderated this panel focused on media trends and food photography. The panel featured Cindy La, Social Media manager with Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality; Irene Matys, a freelance food stylist, photographer and blogger at The Spicy Olive; and cookbook author and photographer Dennis Prescott.

The trio discussed the key ingredients of expressing food stories through their work, with all agreeing the most important elements were passion and authenticity. Prescott also pointed out the opportunity in capitalizing on nostalgia, while La emphasised intuition and emotion as the keys to capturing great food images.

Attendees reconvened in the afternoon for a series of closing keynotes featuring Albert Ponzo, executive chef of The Royal Hotel, and Kat Kinsman, senior Food & Drinks Editor at Extra Crispy and author of Hi, Anxiety. The day concluded with The Big-Picture panel, featuring the event’s room hosts — Catherine Morellon, John Jackson, Connie DeSousa, Jennifer Mason and Magdalena Kaiser — and moderated by Terroir Hospitality founder Arlene Stein.

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