A meeting of local food minds

Local Food Heros - Joshna Maharaj, Eric Wood & Kelly Hughes (left to right)

I love my job. I know, I’m lucky. One of my favourite things that I get to do is connect people and last night’s “meeting of the like minded” was awesome!

We (the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance) have been working with the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) on developing their Ontario Food & Beverage Strategy. The MTCC has hired a passionate chef and local food advocate, Kelly Hughes, as their Local Food & Beverage Procurement Officer. Kelly’s most recent connection to local food prior to joining the MTCC was organizing the Local Food Stage at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and putting on a Food Swap in her hometown of Guelph! 

As Kelly and I work collaboratively to develop the strategy for the MTCC we thought it would be great to connect with others who are doing similar social enterprise work. Top of mind on my list was friend and fabulous chef – Joshna Maharaj. Joshna is one seriously dynamic lady! From her regular appearances on the Steven & Chris Show, to teaching cooking classes for kids at Evergreen Brickworks and 4th year students at the University of Toronto, to her latest venture in flipping a switch from institutional menu to local, tasty and healthy food at the Scarborough Hospital (a project funded by the Broader Public Sector Investment Fund administered by The Greenbelt Foundation).

Second on the list was to connect with Eric Wood who is the Executive Chef at Fabarnak Restaurant and the Director of Food Services at 519 Church Street Community Centre. Eric’s work at 519 Church ROCKS – first off – not only does he oversee the already acclaimed 15 seat restaurant (named Top Restaurant by ORHMA Toronto Restaurant Awards 2012, #6 on the Now Magazine Top 10 Place to Eat in Toronto and #1 on yelp) that has been open for just over a year (and is just now in the process of getting a liqour license) and onsite catering, he also oversees 14 food focused programs offered at the centre! It gets even better – they source 65% of the menu locally (annual average of food costs).

Our meeting took place over a fabulous meal at Fabarnak (a word which is meaningless – seriously). I had the beet and edamame salad with house made ricotta – delish! Joshna and I shared an order of the bone marrow brulle – yum. The highlight for me though was my main – a small portion of their Mac and Cheese (gluten-free rice pasta, cauliflower mornay, local cheese, tomato jam) – it was outstanding!

While the meal was awesome, the sharing that took place amongst the three of these local food heros was even better! It’s great when passionate people are willing to share their secrets to success, their ups, and their downs – that’s how we will win this fight in the good food war – by working together.

Keep an eye of these local food heros by following them on Twitter Joshna Maharaj @joshnamaharaj, Eric Woods @chefericwood and Kelly Hughes @localkelly

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