In what is now an annual tradition, the Ontario Culinary Tourism Summit brings together business owners, tourism industry organizations, media and other industry professionals to learn about (and sample!) the most exciting and innovative developments in the field. A�The Summit also showcases the best and the brightest of the food movement, from creative craft distillers and awe-inspiring accommodations to remarkable restaurants and delicious destination marketers.
Just as the culinary tourism sector has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, the Ontario Culinary Tourism Summit has broadened its offerings each year. This year, the Summit began with a special speaker reception, hosted by Summit sponsor (and all-around awesome hotel!) the Eaton Chelsea. A�Seriously, we love them. Spearheaded by Chef Brian Macaskill, the Eaton Chelsea Food & Beverage team put together a parade of locally-sourced snacks that paired perfectly with their signature Caesars, as well as the gin and tonics being poured by Whitney at Dillon’s Distillers (more on them later).
It’s a good thing we didn’t stay for another cocktail and a
secondA�third helping of strudel – the Summit kicked off bright and early at 8AM the next morning! Attendees were treated to an all-Ontario goodness bag upon their arrival, packed with some of OCTA’s favourite finds from across the province: Monforte garlic scape cheese, Pluck Teas‘ Kensington Blend tea, Cake + Loaf‘s giant ginger crinkle cookies, locally roasted cold brew coffee from Northwood, Provisions Food Company‘s highly addictive salted caramels, Tartistry butter tarts and Rosewood honey. A�Talk about a gooood morning!
Held in conjunction with the Ontario Tourism Summit – an always engaging two-days of sessions put on by our awesome office-mates TIAO, this year’s Summit packed in six (count ‘em six!) speakers during the half day program. A�After introductions from the OCTA team, including a sneak preview of our new foodservice designation program Feast ON and the new and improved EAT – the Experience Assessment Tool, theA�TED-style talks kicked off with Professor Michael C. Hall. A�Presenting all the way from Australia, Professor Hall shared some serious food for thought – including insights on the sustainability of tourism, culinary tourism in particular and the evolving geographies around local food.
Next up, Geoff Dillon from Dillon’s Distillers took the stage to share his incredible story and passion for small-batch distilling. A�More cause for excitement? Geoff announced the formation of the first Ontario Craft Distillers Association, which already counts four members from across the province. Look for Dillons’ white rye and gin in the LCBO, but definitely make plans for a road trip to their Niagara distillery – it’s the only place you can pick up their grape-based vodka and just released rose gin.
Following in quick succession was Jeff Ross, Head Gardener at Tennessee’s breathtakingly beautiful Blackberry Farm, who shared the boutique hotel’s inspiring philosophy around supporting local agriculture and preserving it for generations to come. A�Want an example of this? One of the farm’s latest lines of specialty jams and pickles features produce grown from seeds found in a 1913 catalogue and preserved in Ball mason jars (which, coincidentally, are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year). A�How perfect is that pairing?
After a quick cookie break from the irrepressible Miriam Streiman at Mad Maple Country Inn in Creemore, Chefs Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donovan from the accolade magnet Richmond Station shared their ratio-based model for making local sourcing work, both for customers’ wallets and their restaurant. A�Another tool in their arsenal? Chalkboard menus – these allow the Richmond Station team the flexibilty to bring in whole animals and create ever-changing daily specials to highlight the varying cuts of meat.
Following Carl and Ryan, we headed east to welcome Doug Townsend, Director of Marketing at the award-winning Taste of Nova Scotia. A�Doug discussed the challenges and tasty triumphs of their recent Nova Scotia Eatery program, which hit five festivals and five cities in Ontario this summer. A�Key mandates for developing the program including engaging, luring, promoting and selling Nova Scotia as a travel destination. A�This is one best practice that definitely hooked us in!
Rounding out the jam-packed agenda was Andrew Wiens, International DMO Manager at TripAdvisor, who shared tips for improving a business’ web presence and engaging with customers in a meaningful way. Hint – say thank you. A top-rated presentation indeed!
After a morning that featured glossy, hunger-inducing food and beverage photos framing each of our speakers, it’s no surprise that the Locavore Lunch was a huge draw. A�Attendees were treated to a stunning spread provided by theA�Metro Toronto Convention Centre. A�Proudly featuring local growers and producers, this was one of the most colourful conference lunch plates on record.
While there is certainly a great deal of scheduling, arranging and re-arranging (all hail Agatha!) that goes into our Summit, it truly is one of our favourite days of the year. A�We’re so thrilled to be able to curate this caliber of programming and we couldn’t do it without amazing company to showcase and share stories with. A�The number of local sourcing all-stars – those growers, producers, artisans and businesses that make us so proud to live where we live and do what we do – grows exponentially each year and keep us optimistic for the future of food and culinary tourism in Ontario.
Special thanks to our incredible sponsors – AutoShare, EzTix, Ryerson University, Smart Serve, the Eaton Chelsea and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC) – we couldn’t do it without you!