Meet The Taste Makers: Jeff Bray

Summit_2016We’re counting to the 2016 Ontario Food Tourism Summit happening on November 21st in Ottawa. This years summit is all about ‘Cultivating A Taste Of Place, Together.’  We’ve put together a line-up of culinary tourism major leaguers who will give us the low-down on their experiences and best practices. In the weeks leading up to the summit we’ll be profiling these taste makers showing you exactly why you should save the date. So on that note, meet the first of our 2016 food tourism taste makers!  


Chef, Founder of Cultivate Music & Food Festival A native of Northumberland, Jeff Bray, has been a champion of seasonal ingredients from regional farmers and craft beverage producers since he entered the hospitality industry.  Jeff and his team opened The Social Bar + Table in Port Hope in spring 2014. One year after opening, The Social was the first Feast On designated restaurant in Northumberland and was named “Best New Business” by the Town of Port Hope Chamber of Commerce. After establishing The Social, Jeff sought a larger outlet to connect consumers with Northumberland producers and craft brewers. 
His desire to share this passion brought him to the reality of an idea that had been percolating for years – a festival celebrating the bounty of his home county. In early 2015 Cultivate: A Festival of Food & Drink began to form. On a sunny September weekend of the same year 1200 festival goers ate and drank their way through the offerings from 8 restaurants, 1 farm market, 6 breweries, 1 cidery and 1 winery from Kawarthas-Northumberland (RTO8) and surrounding communities. It returns to Port Hope again this year on September 23 – 25th.  

We sat down with Jeff to talk a little about procurement, festival planning and why building your event with a local food mandate can bring in a new, engaged audience.


Q.Why was important for you to achieve the designation?

As a former operator of a Feast On™ designated restaurant – the associated benefits and alignment of values of Feast On™ were extremely valuable. We had attended the CTA Food Tourism Summit in 2014 and it gave us an idea… we could aim to achieve the Feast On™ designation for our event first AND aim to win the Best New Event category for your annual Food Tourism Awards. When considering an event, it’s really important to have goals. We knew we were aligned in value, so why not have the chance to be recognized by like-minded people from across the province!  

When it came to implementing your foodservice for the event, how difficult was it to reach the minimum 50% procurement requirement to achieve the designation?

It was not hard at all, we had a great group of vendors who were very passionate about the event and our goals – it made sense for everybody.


How did find reporting the Ontario food and beverage procurement – was it onerous?

No- we followed the Criteria Verification Templates you provided. From the beginning we were able to keep our vendors informed of our rules. I feel like they were all into it. Like they were excited to know what percentage they could execute their menu with.  Liaising between the restaurants and the farmers helped as well.  

You’re into your second year of the Cultivate Festival and are going for the designation again – do you foresee any challenges this year?

The 1st year went so well so we are taking on some rapid growth of the event for 2016. We are having some trouble finding more vendors to ensure we can feed a larger audience. Having them comply with our procurement requirements is still quite simple.  

Has the Feast On™ designation done more than support your values and marketing efforts? i.e. garner more sponsorship or funding support.

We are very new at raising sponsorship dollars – and haven’t used it as much as we could have for that – but we will. We have used the designation to attract potential new vendors. Mentioning that Cultivate is a Feast On™ event has resonated, as they understood we have shared values.  

You are presenting at our 2016 Food Tourism Summit – what nuggets of wisdom do you intend to share with our audience?

I want to let people know how simple it is to achieve the designation if you put food first. If you establish your rules at the beginning, and you are clear about repercussions of not following them then it is easy. Ontario grown and raised food is important and even more importantly to us is supporting Northumberland growers and producers. Putting the priority of local food as a key component of our program makes it achievable.  I’ll be sharing some tips and tricks on how we’ve made it work for us!

For more, join us at the 7th Annual Ontario Food Tourism Summit in Ottawa. Tickets on sale now!

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