What does community mean to you? That was the question everyone was answering at this year’s Terroir Hospitality Industry Symposium, where the who’s who of the hospitality industry gathered to exchange ideas and discuss the future.
Held on the 8th floor of the Arcadian Building, located in the heart of the city at Queen & Bay, Terroir began at 7am with an overwhelming of senses. Walking out of the elevators into the symposium, I was greeted with the wonderful smell of food. I couldn’t tell what it was, but I knew right then and there, I was in for a glutinous day. As I checked in, I was given a badge to fill out with my name and twitter handle (@celianicole) and ushered into the event. I took in my surroundings and was instantly overwhelmed. There was so much going on and it wasn’t even 8am. Behind me, a pianist played some classical pieces setting a tone of elegance; beside me there were tables set up with cook books, quirky food t-shirts, magazine subscriptions, and other additional registrations; and then I saw the real attraction: the breakfast buffet. People were lining up in hopes of sampling Oliver & Bonacini’s Michael Robertson & Jamie Meireles’ gourmet breakfast sandwiches, crepes, yogurt & granola, and so much more. I opted for a delicious green juice from Belmont Raw. I’ve learned it’s quite difficult to balance plates of food, cutlery and a DSLR camera – if only I could be so graceful.
At 830am, we were shuffled into the main stage auditorium where Terroir’s chair Arlene Stein and Peter Oliver from Oliver & Bonacini presented their opening remarks, setting the stage for the day’s presentations. They explained the value of community to them and why Terroir is such a special gathering of minds. The theme of this year’s Symposium was “Growing Ideas” and Arlene wanted everyone leaving Terroir to know that Toronto/Ontario is working towards something great in the food and hospitality industry. “Terroir creates a sense of community within our city and we want to be great. With better food, we live a better life”. With goals of turning Toronto into a “Food Town”, they introduced the topics of tourism, social business, local support, community building and just simply good food.
Some of the guest speakers included the Group of Seven Chefs (now only 4, but still going strong), who were very passionate about Toronto and what we have to offer. “There wasn’t a lot of exposure of Toronto food – we wanted to change that. We wanted to cook. We wanted to bring people to Toronto and just cook and have fun. It’s human. I want to cook next to chefs and be apart of something”. Kevin Patricio, Chef and founder of Basqueland Brewing Project described community as being like pornography; “I know it when I see it”, and that the first step in building his sense of community was asking for help from local vendors, farmers and people. It seems like such a simple idea – building a community – especially being in a city that seems to have so much pride. Yet, to hear so many big names in the industry with bigger goals and ideas for where our community can grow and develop, made me feel even more excited about Toronto’s culinary and hospitality future. Whether it being social businesses where most if not all profit is returned to the local community, or creative culinary innovations involving tourism where we create reasons for people to stay in certain areas/regions for longer periods of time with culinary experiences (i.e. wine/brewery tours).
As lunch was served, I could feel the gears turning in my own head, listening to all these amazing speakers discuss their thoughts. The lunch was a culinary culture clash of some of the greatest chef’s Canada and the US has to offer, representing restaurants like L’unita, Ruby WatchCo, Farmer’s Daughter, City Grit, Menton, Empellón Cocina & Taquiria, and many more. Everyone was scrambling to sample as much as they could, and it was well worth it. The chef’s were on point, delivering delicious tastes of what they do best. Chef’s had their own style, which added more to a sense of community – we may all work together, but we don’t lose sight of who each individual is. Soups were served in mix matched coffee cups, hot dogs served in paper plates, lettuce wraps that you could dress/fill up yourself; it seemed as though there was a little something for everyone, with room for guests to add their own touch (even down to the bitters used in their cocktail).
I think the coolest thing that came from the Terroir Symposium, was that not only is community such a key factor in being successful, but it’s so simple. They used bees and their beehive as a theme throughout the event, showing that working together as a community isn’t such a complicated concept. “We looked to Mother Nature and the model of the working beehive. Bees work with each other and with the outside world to take care of their own hive while acting as a critical link in a healthy environment – not to mention providing the fruits of their labour for us to enjoy. This collective intelligence builds a stronger, more viable bee society. At Terroir, we see this hive mentality mimicked in our food communities and leaders. […] By building together, taking chances, pollinating ideas and making connections, we hope to inspire real change within the hospitality industry”.
Without a doubt, this year’s Terroir Hospitality Industry Symposium created a sense of community and lit a fire inside myself to get more involved in helping Toronto grow as a “Food Town”. With so much to learn and so much potential, Toronto will most definitely continue to rise as one of the greatest culinary cities in the world.