Defining Canada’s Culinary Condition
June 29 2017With an Honours Certification in Professional Agrology, a Master of Arts in Gastronomy and a Doctorate in Law, Anita Stewart’s ever-expanding insight and expertise in and out of the kitchen combine to make her one of the country’s top ambassadors in the coordination, cultivation and promotion of Canadian culinary movements across the world.
Her list of accreditations is unmatched, including awards and academic positions; such as a CBC broadcaster and columnist, Gold Medal Plates juror, World Food Media Awards judge, Ontario Food Ambassador, Canadian Culinary Federation of Chefs and Cooks Honourary Lifetime Member and Founding Member of Cuisine Canada, just to name a few.
Anita recently spoke with us to shed light on Canada’s position at the world’s culinary table, from our evolution in cuisine to how we can better serve our homegrown comrades.
In your opinion, where should Canada sit on the world’s culinary stage?
At the front of it; the whole nation is awash in talent thanks to the research that’s going on in our universities and the skills that are being taught at our community colleges. Plus, we have producers and processors who are as creative as anyone on the planet and chefs and home cooks who embrace new flavours. There are also menus which change with every new immigrant group that arrives in our country. We’re not there yet but as Canadians become more food-aware, we will move into our rightful place, centre stage!
What defines Canadian Cuisine?
Endless possibilities and a desire to improve cooking in Canada.
Looking back at the last 150 years, how has Canadian cuisine evolved?
In the early days, we cooked locally from our own food shed because we had to. It was survival cookery and whatever was on hand could find its way onto the table. First Nations harvested the wilds and now we’re beginning to follow suit. Our love affair with all things from far away is gradually disappearing as more and more cool ingredients come on stream; from heart nuts and Ontario-grown peanuts to northern kiwi and purple corn.
What would you say are quintessentially Canadian flavours and ingredients?
There is definitely a distinct difference between these two. For flavours, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, lavender, black pepper; these speak to the food cultures of the dozens of diaspora who live here and continue to arrive. For ingredients, corn, beans, squash, cheese, beef, canola, lentils; these are whatever makes up their particular dishes and are at-first imported but then grown here as the individuals become more established and communicate their needs to the farming community.
How can the average chef or restaurateur balance affordability with wanting to support local growers and producers?
Supporting local growers and producers provides chefs and restaurateurs with a very real advantage because it sets them apart from the competition. The bottom line of any culinary operation is made up of more than food costs and consumers love to hear the stories associated with ingredients that make up the menu.
Why do you think more Canadian Chefs aren’t using homegrown and homemade ingredients in their dishes?
It’s a whole lot of work and some high-volume establishments are not geared for it, not that they couldn’t be but it’s still time consuming to set up the supply chains. There’s also a very real issue around “Made in Canada” labeling. Once those regulations are clarified, chefs and home cooks will find it easier to source Canadian.
Food Day Canada is going to be huge this year, given Canada’s 150th celebrations. Can you tell us about some of the highlights we can expect on August 5th and how Canada’s chefs and foodservice professionals can get involved in the festivities?
Joining the party will be easier than it’s ever been. Besides the invited restaurants, there will be an option for general participation among the restaurant community, our home cooks and our weekend warriors. We’ve provided a list of 150 ingredients for them to refer to and are challenging them to include those ingredients in their Food Day Canada feasts, tag them with #CanadaIsFood and then show the world. It’s that simple.
For more information on Food Day Canada, please see here: http://fooddaycanada.ca/