Why You Need to Be Attending the Terroir Symposium in 2019

Terroir 2018 Rural Retreat Planet Shrimp Display
Terroir Symposium networking at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Terroir Symposium networking at the Art Gallery of Ontario

The food industry can be very chaotic, and it sometimes feels like there are more celebrity chefs and Instagram gurus than any true leaders to follow. The Terroir Symposium is a welcome respite to all that white noise.

  • Cannoli di Sanguinaccio (made with chocolate and pig's blood) from Bar Buca

Above: Cannoli di Sanguinaccio (made with chocolate and pig’s blood) from Bar Buca and Chef Stuart Cameron of Mira (for this event) representing Cacao Barry.

Often referred to simply as “Terroir” (as in, are you attending Terroir this year?), this annual conference for industry leaders and super consumers in food hospitality and tourism is one of my favourite Toronto events (although, trust me, it attracts attendees from around the world). The powerhouse team behind the event is also largely comprised of the good folks at the Culinary Tourism Alliance. Every year features a different venue, speakers and activities, but the goal is the same: connect and inspire the industry to learn from each other, and do better.

In April of last year, Toronto hosted the 12th annual Terroir Symposium with the theme of “Terroirnomics: The Powerful Economics of Local”. The event featured many inspiring thought-leaders who discussed how they leverage what comes from their lands, lakes and oceans to boost their local economy.

Speakers like Elena Arzak from three Michelin-starred Restaurante Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain discussed the importance of tradition and innovation in food. Diane Hodgins from Fogo Island Inn, Bob Desautels from The Neighbourhood Group, and Isabel Soares from Fruta Feia spoke about the success achieving the quadruple bottom line: supporting their people, planet, profit and purpose.

It goes without saying that the food and drink options were incredible. I mean, the Welcome Reception alone was unforgettable. Picture walking through Ripley’s Aquarium with cocktails in hand and sampling sustainably-sourced canapés prepared by some of the city’s best chefs (yes, eating fish among fish can be a weird but exhilarating experience) and getting to hang out with Oceanwise Executive Chef Ned Bell among sharks and sea urchins.

Taco Farm's Nick Benninger serves up his bannock and "PB and J" treats
Taco Farm’s Nick Benninger serves up his bannock and “PB and J” treats

The Rural Retreat in Norfolk County (an exclusive event for media, speakers and sponsors) also ranks highly on my list of the best things I’ve ever had a chance to do through the blog. All of us attendees piled up in two big yellow school buses and giddily laughed our way like children to Burning Kiln Winery. We spent the day sipping local Ontario craft beer and wine paired with satisfying, rustic dishes such as roast lamb saddle made over a fire, fajitas with steak cooked on the largest cast iron skillet you’ve ever seen, and bannock on a stick served with Norfolk County peanuts and blueberry jam, complete with plaid shirts and Muskoka chairs galore. P.S. Check out this highlights video made by the folks at Norfolk County, or this video made by the folks at Taco Farm.

Rebecca Mackenzie enjoying some bannock, PB and J.
Culinary Tourism Alliance’s Rebecca Mackenzie enjoying some bannock, PB and J
I tried to eat only one giant fajita...
I tried to eat only one giant fajita…

Terroir 2019 will be taking place on May 6, 2019 and will be centred around the theme “Choice: Risks and Rewards in a Changing Food Culture”, which seems very fitting given the extreme abundance of choice we are faced with in all aspects of our life. All of the talks and workshops this year will be held at The Carlu.

One of the talks I’m really looking forward to is the one on the choice between farmed vs. wild seafood. This talk will feature Chef David Hawskworth from Vancouver, Chef Ned Bell (see above), Terroir Founder Arlene Stein, Paul Uys of the Arrell Food Institute, and Jennifer Johnston of Fisherfork. Also, if any of you are fans of Netflix’s The Final Table like I am, Chef Darren McLean of Calgary’s Shokunin will also be there to speak about making Japanese food with Canadian ingredients (and a Canadian upbringing).

A little snapshot from last year's Terroir Rural Retreat

Terroir is great opportunity to meet all of the incredible people who are behind the innovative, exciting projects in the food industry, and your tastebuds will thank you. Tickets for the Terroir Symposium can be purchased here, and the program can be viewed here. I’m telling you, you won’t regret attending.

Hope to see you there!

Disclaimer: I attended last year’s event as a guest of the Culinary Tourism Alliance, and will also be attending this year in the same capacity. All opinions and glowing endorsements are my own.

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