By Ivy Lerner-Frank
CALGARY — Terroir Symposium kicked off its first in-person event since the pandemic — and its first year in Calgary — on the evening of September 18 with a gala which included the screening of chef Elizabeth Falkner’s new film Sorry, We’re Closed about the effects of the pandemic on the restaurant industry, followed by an interactive breakdown of a bison from Noble Premium Bison.
During the four-day event, more than 400 chefs, drink experts, service staff, suppliers, writers, restaurateurs, educators, and business leaders enjoyed lectures, workshops, and interactive sessions focused on building community in the hospitality realm. And, of course, there was eating.
“It’s the right time,” Tannis Baker, partner with Food Tourism Strategies and co-organizer of the Terroir Symposium said. “The power of tourism is the best way to share a food story, and Calgary’s culinary scene is exploding. We want to connect farmers with chefs and consumers, and this is a great way to do it.”
The theme of “From the Roots: Culture, Community, and Environment” guided the plenary sessions held at the Calgary Central Library. Each morning began with an Indigenous-led invocation, sensitizing participants to the history of the province and the deep connection between the land and animals — especially the bison — that comprise such an essential part of the Alberta terroir. These sessions, led by media personalities, sponsors, and industry experts provided participants with a comprehensive understanding of the current state of play in the hospitality industry, in Canada and worldwide: the joys of being together again, the challenges of staying in business, the tools needed to get the job done, and the importance of continuous sharing and collaboration through gastrodiplomacy.
Midday meals were prepared by a stellar cast of local chefs at standout venues Deane House and the Calgary Zoo, creating the perfect recipe for networking and conversation. Afternoon workshops on industry issues such as staffing, storytelling through service, and conservation, as well as wine and spirit tastings, followed.
This year’s signature dinners, collaborations with local and international chefs at award-winning restaurants Major Tom, Rouge, Fire & Flora, and Bridgette Bar, were enthusiastically attended by Terroir participants and local diners. “Calgary has a hospitality sense that is above and beyond,” said Terroir founder Arlene Stein, and the strong sense of pride was palpable.
“The bigger part of Terroir is about building community,” said Stein. “It’s the opportunity to build relationships amongst our people, our hospitality communities, and build the networks that will have everlasting effects.”
With a commitment to root the next two years of Terroir in Calgary, plans are already underway for an exciting session in 2023 and beyond.