Well it took me a little longer than I thought to blog about the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance Summit. In the meantime, some great articles have come out describing Chef Michael Smith’s keynote presentation:

Foodservice & Hospitality Magazine
Good Food Revolution
This Little Piggy

This was the first time I had heard Chef Michael Smith speak. In fact, I’ve never seen any of his TV shows, but if I ever get cable or satellite, I will be sure to tune in! He is such an engaging speaker, and so well spoken. His speech was a great start to the conference.

Here are some key quotes from Michael Smith that really stood out for me:

Fundamentally at the root core of our very souls, we gather, we prepare, and we share food. That’s what motivates us and that’s who we are. And truly that is what brought us together as human beings.

When we travel, we crave home. And thus we crave experiences that remind us of home. We also crave the reality that we don’t have at home. This is one of the key reasons that we travel. Those of us in the industry that figure out ways to provide those experiences – those things that our guests and consumers don’t have at home – that’s a heck of a way to build brand and a great way to build a business.

 We live in such a confusing world that comes at us at such a high pace that anybody, anything, anywhere in our world that tells us a story about food and helps us connect to our food, it instantly helps us to connect to ourselves.

 When you hear those stories, when you look somebody in the eye, when you begin to understand what it takes to produce the food that nourishes us, it is a very, very powerful emotion. And it is something that is dramatically lacking in our society. It is something that is just plain missing for so many of us, and it’s one hell of a business opportunity as a result. We tell stories. That is the foundation of culinary tourism.

 Michael Smith also talked about the marketing side of culinary tourism. Here are a few key points:

  • We need to have more confidence about telling our stories.
  • We should promote the winners, and let the losers catch up (rather than promoting everyone).
  • The more culinary tourism destinations within a region, the better it is for everyone. Your neighbour is not your competitor.
  • There is no shame in profit. These experiences do not have to come for free – it is okay to charge for it.

Everything he said rang true for me, especially having spent so much time as a culinary tourist for the last couple months. There are so many amazing stories and experiences out there, and I’m truly enjoying the opportunity to share those experiences on this blog and in my upcoming book.

Next up:

  • More notes from the OCTA Summit
  • Photos and notes from the OCTA-sponsored “familiarization” tour of the Niagara region (what an amazing day!)
  • A winery tour and a farm tour in Ripon, Quebec