By Alexandra Emanuelli
Six hundred international delegates descended on Toronto this year for the annual Terroir Symposium, a hospitality industry symposium that mashes industry-speak with the latest trends, tastes, and thoughts in the food world. If you’ve never been to Terroir (why haven’t you? Are you living under a rock?), each year, the committee picks a theme to center the day’s programming around. This year, speakers pondered the topic of pioneering change and all of its permutations, what a pioneer is, how we as an industry can change, how to grow, and what the industry can do to give back.
The day kicked off with Ian Brown’s hilarious retelling of his Canadian cross-country journey to discover what it means, both wild and wonderful, to eat through Canada. The conversations got heavier as Sarah Weiner, Jair Téllez, Mark Schatzker, and Anton Sucksdorff discussed the economic, social, and cultural sides of food, with an especially illuminating piece by Schatzker on how flavour and nutrition are inextricably linked. The morning capped off with the enigmatic Kimi Werner, whose thrilling accounts of free diving and spear fishing left everyone in awe of this Hawaiian who could go nose to nose with a shark, and left me wondering why how I could get closer to hunting and catching my own dinners.
What I, and I believe, most guests, love about Terroir, is not only the opportunity to learn and grow from the talks and demo sessions, but also the chance to meet and connect with industry elites, as well as new friends and old. I’m always filled with so much excitement to meet the people in my industry that I admire the most, and Terroir is one of those rare moments that allows for that. I remember the first Terroir that I attended, and I accidentally sat down beside Peter Meehan; the editor of Lucky Peach, before he went to go on stage to speak with the David MacMillan & Frédéric Morin, of Joe Beef. He was prepping for his interview, and going back and forth with Margot Henderson for ideas for questions, scrawling sentences on card paper and throwing them onto the floor. I sat there, too nervous to say anything, and later kicking myself for not taking advantage of a moment to speak with someone whose work I had always admired. This year, I didn’t have the same tongue-tied shyness. I listened to people who I admired greatly, made introductions, and found out that I had new a whole host of new organizations and people to be passionately championing.
Lunch was styled around the theme of street eats, a compilation of the best international street food, referencing cultures and traditions from Louisiana gumbo to Low Country croquettes and crispy rice. Dessert was equally impressive, created in an array of sweets, taking a spin on the classic “Asian spring treats”, using mixed with black sesame, banana, coconut, and alunga milk chocolate, and a white chocolate mayo fudge sauce.
The day wrapped with three not to be missed conversations. First Mark McEwan and Connie Desousa got real and answered questions on the current state of food reality television, and answering tweeted questions from the audience. Helen Hollyman, the editor of Vice’s food content, Munchies, and Clarkson Potter editor, Francis Lam, followed with a discussion that echoed many of the sentiments on the future of food writing and media. Finally Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff, the co-owners and founders of Big Gay Ice Cream, brought the whole day together with their sweet, funny, and smart retelling of their journey into business, and their accidental foray into gay rights.
I go back to Terroir because I always feel creatively refreshed afterwards, like I’m filled with new ideas and inspiration, new connections and conversations. As someone who wants to continue to learn, from the best in the best in the industry, Terroir has something for everyone. I can’t wait for next year.