Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ontario Culinary Tourism Summit 2010

Chef Jamie Kennedy

I recently had a chat with Rebecca LeHeup, Executive Director of the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. I met Rebecca a few years ago when she toured me and my fellow JK teammates around Prince Edward County in search of culinary delights as part of a JK field trip. Since then I've run into her at Gilead Cafe, the Savour Ottawa Networking Summit, and met up on the oh so famous Twitter.

During our most recent chat, my mission was to get the lowdown on the Ontario Culinary Tourism Summit which took place on November 1st at the MaRS Centre in Toronto. Now in its third year, the OCTA Summit exists in order to connect businesses, organizations and culinary regions in the pursuit of developing a stronger sense of culinary tourism in Ontario.

This year the goal was to bring networking opportunities and valuable, tangible tools to those in the culinary field to apply to their businesses. Chef Michael Smith was the Head Lecturer for the day and Rebecca says he was a great choice because he can illustrate "how other regions are doing it successfully." Culinary tourism is all about certain regions making a name for themselves for their products and experiences. Just like we know Michael Smith's PEI as our destination for cheddar, potatoes and seafood, each region in Ontario should be well known for its local bounty.

There was a focus on "field to plate" and farmers were a large part of the program. In the past there was a farmer-chef "meet and greet" but according to Rebecca, "this year we asked chefs to come and put on an all-Ontario lunch featuring 12 destinations and 8 wineries." Our friend Chef Jamie Kennedy organized this luncheon. The Summit also offered a social media workshop, information on sustainable seafood, and a chance to learn from farmers, food writers, chefs and culinary organizations.

Chef Michael Smith

After the summit, Ivy Knight organized a "Pickle Smackdown" afterparty at the Drake Hotel. Rebecca said that it was "really encouraging to see that out of 250 people who made the trip to Toronto for the Summit, around 100 of them attended the afterparty. You've gotta have fun, after all!"

Pickle Smackdown

When I asked her what the next Summit might be like, Rebecca said that the focus will most likely be on "telling new culinary stories and helping business owners grow their product." I also asked her opinion on the up and coming culinary regions in Ontario, to which she replied: "Norfolk County, Stratford, Grey-Bruce Simcoe and Peterborough and the Kawarthas."

Thanks to Rebecca for providing a look at the Ontario Culinary Tourism Summit. Now that's a fine example of eating, drinking and connecting. For a much more comprehensive account of the Summit, you can check out the OCTA Summit website, or see what my friends over at Good Food Revolution had to say.

*All Photos courtesy of Rebecca LeHeup, OCTA

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