Week of June 7, 2010

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Toronto Hotel Workers Vote to Strike in Run Up to G20 Summit
After much talk and heated negotiations, hotel workers at 32 properties in Toronto have voted to authorize a strike to back contract demands. The union members belong to Local 75 of Unite Here, and while the group has green-lighted the action to strike by a vote of 94.2 per cent, should negotiations over a new agreement break down, only one downtown hotel, the Novotel on The Esplanade, is in jeopardy of a work stoppage. There are approximately 5,500 members in the union, though it is not known how many voted. Shift cuts and workplace conditions are the major issues in the negotiations over a new contract.

The timing of the announcement is a big part of this story. The City of Toronto is already under much scrutiny as it announces plans to accommodate many of the G20 nations’ political leaders at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on the June 25 weekend — as well as how it plans to deal with the swell of protestors that will surely follow. According to a CBC.ca story, some French delegates are slated to stay at the Novotel during the summit, with its workers possibly walking out two days before the G20 begins. According to the CBC story, the union ominously claims “it doesn’t want to hold Toronto hostage during the G20, but the action could be taken if working conditions don’t improve.”

Are Canada’s Meat Transport Practices Substandard?
In the past five years, mad cow disease and listeriosis outbreaks in Canada have led to the deaths of Canadian citizens. Each crisis was a severe blow to the country’s meat industry, causing untold damage from lost lives, lost revenues and an overall waning confidence in Canadian meat. The unfortunate events put pressure on the federal government and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), as many critics came out against what they viewed as substandard health practices within the meat industry. That criticism has once again come to light in a high-profile story in last week’s Globe and Mail, which detailed the contents of a new study by the World Society for the Protection of Animals — due to be released some time this week — that investigated the transportation conditions for animals destined for processing plants in Canada.

The study is based on CFIA inspection reports for the period between Oct. 9, 2008, and Jan. 9, 2009, when the agency launched an investigation of the meat industry in reaction to the 2008 listeriosis outbreak that killed 22. In its report, the World Society for the Protection of Animals found that Canadian standards for transporting meat were significantly lower than those in the U.S. and Europe, with a slew of evidence suggesting that food-borne illnesses are too easily transported across the country in trucks and trains — thanks to the animals packed inside. “Under CFIA policy, an inspection is warranted if one per cent of a shipment of broiler chickens arrives dead, whereas the U.S. threshold is 0.5 per cent,” writes Gloria Galloway, in the Globe report. She also notes that the report found CFIA standards were not strenuously enforced and that two to three million animals die during transport every year while another 11 million arrive at their destination diseased or injured.

Clearly, there are challenges in transporting meat in Canada, which is a vast nation with an often harsh climate. The report states that cows in Canada can be transported for up to 52 hours without food, water and a rest break. In Europe, the standard is 12 hours. Ac5cording to Paul Meyers, the associate vice-president of programs at the CFIA, “the agency is preparing to rewrite the rules on animal transport.”

Boston Pizza to Open New Location at CBC Headquarters in Toronto
Richmond, B.C.-based Boston Pizza confirmed this week it will be opening a new franchised location in the CBC building in downtown Toronto in the near future. The new unit promises to give CBC employees and visitors to the national broadcaster’s headquarters a chance to enjoy Boston Pizza’s full menu in a unique environment. An official opening date has yet to be released, but company representatives did tell foodserviceandhospitality.com that, “As Canada’s number 1 casual-dining brand, we’re ecstatic to bring Boston Pizza to the heart of Ontario sports fans in downtown Toronto and to be able to work with a great brand like Hockey Night in Canada and CBC Sports to develop unparalleled unique experiences for our guests.”

CCFCC National Conference a Great Success
CCFCC Windsor 2010, the 47th National Conference and Tradeshow of the Canadian Culinary Federation, held May 31 to June 4, saw more than 140 chef delegates and dozens of culinary students and junior chefs attending education programs at the Caesars Windsor Hotel and competing in culinary events at St. Clair College of Applied Arts and Technology. Another active venue was the Essex Golf and Country Club, which hosted a day of golf for some of the chefs, and there were also two evening events, including an Ice Breaker Reception and a spectacular CCFCC Honour Society dinner. An evening pub dine-round, themed Rickard’s Night Out, drew delegates and guests to two pub locations, Chanoso’s (with chef Theodore Dimoglou) and Pour House (with chef Stu Martin). The conference was hosted by the Culinary Guild of Windsor and chaired by its president, Ahron Goldman, with Helmut Markert as co-chair.

A spectacular nine-course, six-wine-flight inaugural dinner of the newly formed CCFCC Honour Society was a highlight of the conference. (For a list of honourees see Inaugural Dinner of CCFCC Honour Society, June 2, Windsor, Ont., in the May 31 edition of TheWhat’sOnReport. Honourees present at the event included the only two Canadian chefs to be awarded the Order of Canada — Marcel Kretz of Montreal and Takashi Murakami of Winnipeg. Under the direction of Bruno Marti, chairman of the Honour Society, and Essex Golf & Country Cub executive chef, John Kukucka, a team of 17 chefs, cooks, kitchen staff and 13 servers presented a medley of Canadian food products from across Canada, artfully prepared and presented and matched with seven wines from the southern Ontario region. After the event, a non-Canadian guest chef attending the dinner volunteered to Foodservice and Hospitality magazine group publisher, Mitch Kostuch, “I’ve been to hundreds of chefs’ events all over the world, including America, and this was unquestionably the finest meal I have ever had at any of them.”

The closing President’s Dinner also recognized other chef achievers, including the CCFCC Lifetime Achievement Award going to Michael Pinter from British Columbia, and the Chef of the Year Award going to B.C. native John-Carlo Felicella.

Celebrity chef Michael Smith drew a full-house to his two-hour closing session at the conference, speaking for the first hour on a range of topics and then inviting four senior chefs to join him on stage for a discussion period. “We have the cheapest food in the history of mankind today — and we’re getting just what we’re paying for, placing quantity over quality, absorbing cheap calories from foods that have lost nutritional value,” Smith said. “What has happened to flavour? Flavour and nutrition are bound together.” He urged the audience to keep in mind that, “guests know more [about flavour and nutrition] than ever before. As chefs, we must exceed their expectations,” he said. “Look at what the CRFA [Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association] and Foodservice and Hospitality magazine tell us that our guests want — issues such as flavour, local, organics, sustainability and so on — and you know the challenges and the opportunities we face.” Smith added, “Give the consumer the information and they will make the right decision.” In speaking of nutrition information availability, he emphasised it is important to make it available when the consumer is making the purchase decision, on the menu or on a menu board.

Other highlights of the educational program included seminars on: Flavour, presented by chef Norm Myshok of Canada Bread; Restaurant Design by Chris Hannah of Cricket Design; Rice Culinary Education by chef Stephan Czapalay on behalf of the USA Rice Federation; Cake Decorating with Renee Pratt-Snively of Renee’s Fine Cakes; Cheese Education by Kathy Guidi of Artisan Cheese Marketing; Growing Coffee Culture by Byron Cunningham of Planet Bean; Water Weight is Short Weight by Herman Pfanzelt of Ocean Jewel; Truffle Culture by Quentin Wyne of TruffiCulture; and Dynamic Restaurant Marketing by Jon Taffer of Taffer Dynamics. “To hell with experience,” Taffer told the conference. “Hire for personality. If you’re not special you’re invisible.” He added, “Everything we do is a process, never a result, and that process must establish a positive emotional reaction. The reaction is our product.” He urged, “We’re in the business of creating an action — buy, come back, tell a friend — actions that are driven by emotions, the reaction your guests feel.”

The 48th National Conference of the Canadian Culinary Federation will be held June 14 to 19, 2011, at the Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harborside, hosted by the B.C. Chefs Association. The conference theme will be “Culinary Excellence.” A website will soon be established at ccfcc2011.com.

Canad Inns Named a Top Employer for Young People
Winnipeg-based Canad Inns has been named one of Canada’s 50 Best Employers for Young People. The list was first published in 2001 by the editors of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. The companies on the list are leaders in attracting and retaining young employees, which they accomplish through offering tuition assistance, mentorship, top training programs and company-wide skills inventories. “We are extremely proud of this designation,” said Leo Ledohowski, president and chair of Canad Inns. “We value all of our team members and especially our young employers who are our future and tomorrow’s leaders for our growing company.”

Tim Hortons Tops $1 M in Scholarships
Tim Hortons is best known for coffee and doughnuts, but Canada’s largest restaurant company is also renowned for its community focus. Once again this year, the Oakville, Ont.-based chain is honouring 220 deserving students across Canada and the United States, as recipients of the 2010 Tim Hortons Scholarship Program. Each student will receive $1,000 towards tuition at a post-secondary institution. More than $1 million has been disbursed among 1,100 students since the program’s inception six years ago, which was designed to recognize restaurant team members (as well as their children or grandchildren), who believe in giving back to their community through volunteer work and have plans to pursue post-secondary education.  

“Tim Hortons values our restaurant team members and is delighted to present these outstanding students with a Tim Hortons Scholarship,” said Roland Walton, COO. “Our restaurant owners believe in strengthening their local communities and a quality education is a great foundation for building future leaders in our communities.”

“I am extremely appreciative of this scholarship and the wonderful company that it represents,” said Danika Heighes, 2009 scholarship recipient from Kamloops, B.C. “Tim Hortons has been an important part of my life, providing me with my first job, numerous skills that I will always utilize, and an opportunity to enrich my post-secondary education.”

The application process for the 2011 Scholarship Program opens February 2011.

Eastern Canadian Offshore Lobster join Clearwater’s Marine Stewardship Council-Certified Lineup
Clearwater Seafoods, based in New Bedford, N.S., announced last week that Eastern Canadian Offshore Lobster is its newest addition to its line of Marine Stewardship Council-certified (MSC) offerings that already include Canadian sea scallops, Argentine scallops and Canadian coldwater shrimp.

This means that the Eastern Canadian Offshore lobster meets the stringent environmental standards set by the MSC — meaning the meat is being harvested in a sustainable, well-managed fishery. “I’m delighted the Eastern Canadian offshore lobster fishery has met the MSC standard and congratulate the fishers, management agency and Clearwater Seafoods on this successful certification,” said MSC CEO, Rupert Howes. “This lobster fishery becomes the eighth certified Canadian fishery and the 82nd in the world.”

The news reflects the evolving culinary landscape. “Even as the global economy struggles to recover there is evidence chefs and consumers are becoming increasingly eco-conscious,” said Clearwater CEO, Ian Smith. “The Clearwater logo on our lobster has always stood for consistent full-meated lobster. The MSC certification is added assurance that our customers are making the best possible choice.”

A&W Announces Multi-Site Development Agreement in Ontario
Vancouver-based A&W has announced the securing of another multi-site development agreement (MSDA) in Ontario. The latest MSDA territory grants the right to franchise A&W restaurants in five southern Ontario communities, including Niagara Falls, Fonthill, Welland, Port Colborne and Fort Erie. The developers will open about one A&W restaurant in each of these communities per year. So far in 2010, A&W has granted six MSDA’s representing commitments by franchisees to open 32 new free-standing restaurants during the next three to five years. All of this activity has been focused in southern Ontario and the Vancouver area. This brings to 77 the number of new A&Ws the company has secured to open over this three- to five-year period, since the MSDA program was launched in 2009. “We continue to be delighted with the level of response to the MSDA concept we are receiving from both existing and new franchisees,” said Graham Cooke, A&W’s vice-president of New Restaurant Expansion. “We currently have interest from qualified groups all over Ontario and have, more recently, introduced the program in Quebec.” The company has also revamped its franchise website and undertaken a newspaper advertising campaign to further promote its new franchise concept.

Keith’s Marks Canadian Navy’s Centennial
Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, the pride of Halifax’s brewing community, recently got a facelift. Its traditional stag mascot has been temporarily switched out for one of 18 commemorative crowns to mark the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy with ship badges from its military vessels based in the East Coast. “This is a way for us to show our support for the men and women of Canada’s East Coast Navy,” said Wade Keller, Labatt director of Corporate Affairs for Atlantic Canada. “We know the people on board these ships take great pride in their vessels and what they represent. We are pleased to help recognize that through this special set of commemorative crowns.” A limited-edition set of crowns was presented to the Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, Rear Admiral Paul Maddison, by Labatt vice-president of Corporate Affairs, Charlie Angelakos, aboard the HMCS Charlottetown last week.

“Throughout 100 years of distinguished naval service to Canada, all of our ships and submarines have been identified by distinctive crests. Our crews proudly display their ship’s crests on badges worn on their naval combat dress,” said Rear-Admiral Maddison. “It means a lot to us to have Keith’s as a supporter in our celebrations, and I know our sailors will be keen to collect full sets of these special crowns.”

The crown-crested bottles will be available at Maritime liquor stores within the next few weeks for a couple of months or until all have been sold.

One King West Launches Two-Bed Suites in Toronto
One King West Hotel and Residence, a downtown Toronto hotel known for its historically significant architecture and business-friendly atmosphere, recently announced the opening of some two-bed suites, which is a first for the upscale hotel. Currently, 20 of the hotel’s ‘Superior’ suites have been converted to include two plush, double-sized beds, with a total of 30 suites slated for completion by July 1, 2010. “Recognizing that planners, organizers, residents and patrons to One King West Hotel and Residence have long welcomed their guests to our luxurious spaces — from weddings to galas, product launches to corporate events — we felt the converted suites would enhance our offering to a wider selection of discerning guests,” said Matt Black, director of Sales and Marketing at the hotel. Every suite at the property is designed with extended stays in mind, featuring stylish in-suite kitchens with laundry, deluxe bedding, tall ceilings, chic bathrooms and designer decor throughout.

Monforte Dairy Successfully Raises $400 K through CSA Program
Stratford, Ont.’s Monforte Dairy Company Ltd. announced last week that it has received $400,400 from 899 participants through its Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) microfinance campaign, dubbed Monforte Renaissance 2010. The CSA campaign is now closed. Monforte Dairy had been producing its exceptional artisanal sheep and goat milk cheeses in a shared facility in Millbank, Ont., since beginning production in 2004. When Monforte found itself without a home in January 2009, and the banks refusing to finance such a “risky business,” Ruth Klahsen took a leap of faith and turned to her customers for help. “We’re so grateful to everyone who participated,” said Klahsen, owner and lead cheesemaker at Monforte Dairy, of the program launched in February 2009. “People doubted we’d raise even $100,000. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.”

Using the CSA model, Monforte offered the public shares for cheese fulfilled over five years. CSAs were available at $200 (for $250 worth of cheese), $500 ($750 worth of cheese) and $1,000 ($1,500 worth of cheese). Participants could also choose the option of vouchers — redeemed at specific farmers’ markets, and the soon to be opened diary store — or receive delivery of two baskets of cheese a year. “We even got CSAs from people who’ve never tasted our cheese,” said Klahsen. “They bought in because they like the idea of a small dairy or they remember when Ontario had lots of local dairies, something we hope to see again.” The new dairy is located at 49 Griffith Road in Stratford.

Timothy’s Brews Sweet Sustainable Coffee
Single-cup brewing systems are among the hottest trends in the coffee world today. They boost efficiency and sustainability while eliminating waste, and they allow operators to greatly increase the variety of coffees they have in store. Just in time for summer, Toronto-based Timothy’s World Coffee has introduced its latest K-Cup portion pack coffee — Sweet Summer Raspberry. It comes in K-Cups specifically designed for use with the Keurig Single-Cup Brewing System. The new flavour is part of Timothy’s seasonal selections, so it’s available for a limited-time only. The raspberry-flavoured coffee is made with Timothy’s premium 100-per-cent Arabica beans, a blend that includes beans from Rainforest Alliance-Certified farms, which is an important facet of Timothy’s ethical and exceptional coffee commitment. “Sourcing sustainable, environmentally friendly and socially responsible coffees has always been a focus for Timothy’s,” said Tracey Noakes, Timothy’s marketing manager. “Our new Sweet Summer Raspberry K-Cup is another example of our continued commitment to providing consumers with ethical and exceptional coffee choices.”

Toronto’s Wildfire Restaurant Debuts New Look
When it comes to dealing with recessions, many restaurant owners cut expenses, and wait and hope for the best. Jody Ness, chef and proprietor of Wildfire Steakhouse and Wine Bar in north Toronto, became more active in his pursuit of business. The ex-Montrealer, and host of CNBC’s acclaimed Wine Portfolio, invested almost half a million dollars into a sleek, elegant redux of his popular restaurant. He hopes the new look, feel and upgraded menu will keep regulars interested while attracting a new following. The new look and menu at the eatery, which debuted in 1999, was showcased at a recent opening party for customers and media. A beautiful hardwood chef’s table with seating for 12, located next to the kitchen, is one of the signature elements. For $175 per person, including a selection of wines that are paired with each course, customers can indulge in an evening created just for them.

Designed by Christina Tofan, in collaboration with New York artist Cora Manini, the overall look blends edgy design with hardwood, leather, metal and fire creating a relaxing, sensual experience. The menu features dishes like savoury Dungeness crab croquettes, oysters rockefeller and polenta fries. The charcoal grilled offerings include Piri Piri half chicken churrasco and Sterling Silver rib steak. “While Wildfire has a great reputation and a loyal customer base, I wanted to look at some of the reasons our uptown crowd goes downtown,” said Ness. “There’s really no reason to now — the unique and contemporary yet comfortable ambiance, the service, a menu where you’ll find one-of-a-kind creations…it’s all here and, yes, north of Eglinton Ave.”

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