An eye on the world

Terroir in Toronto

An imposing symposium

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Let us attempt a typology of the events related to food and/or gastronomy, which we can separate into three groups.

The first, of which World Omnivore Tour is still an eminent representative, characterizes itself as an event where a chef is the absolute star, where the demonstrations of savoir-faire are nothing short of spectacular, and where the stage is transformed into a super HD television studio. The spectator is usually a professional or semi-professional, or a student who has just learned from the masters. The second category is perfectly represented by MAD, a gathering initiated by René Redzepi in Copenhagen that just celebrated its fourth edition this past summer. Perfectly elitist in its concept and production but for a good cause since it’s about fructifying the ideas born in the chef community, expanding their spectrum of thought beyond their status of restaurant owner and globalizing the issues related to the field. The third is an event that turns the actual performance into the subject of reflection. Gelinaz, with Andréa Pétrini as its leader who also invented Cook it Raw, is its incontestable king. The issues are raised together through a unique experience. Like, for example, eating 23 times the same century-old classic dish, reinterpreted by the same number of chefs from around the world during Gélinaz Ghent or Lima. Here too the experience is reserved for a happy few, and its up to them to circulate the ideas that there emerge.

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The first quality of the Terroir symposium, which just took place in Toronto, is that it opens a new path. Created in 2007, the event truly took off in 2012 by offering an ingenuous mix of the best of the previous three, thus finding its style by offering a new option in terms of audience. Indeed, it’s not necessary to be a cook, a culinary journalist, a specialist, or anything of the sort to come enrich your thoughts.

The 2014 edition, which was held last week (May 12th), is proof of this. The diversity of the participants and the pertinence of their words made this day a great success for all audiences. Between Albert Adria (video interview here) who came to tell us, armed with his diagrams, the thoughts that crossed his mind on the eve of the opening of his new restaurant in Barcelona, New York chef Amanda Cohen (video interview here) who explained why “women are also chefs”, and a redefinition of the term “rural” offered up by comedian Shaun Majumder, the spectrum was large.

Another idea that works well: focus on the guest country, which this year was Sweden.  Focusing on both demos for those who were interested and on ideas developed by this little country in terms of population but big in terms of culinary dynamics, we were able to appreciate chefs like Magnus Ek, who is now entering the celebrity circuit, the much younger Frida Ronge de Göteborg, and even activists for the Swedish cause, including Fia Gulliksson. And, unlike Omnivore, you don’t just look at dishes at Terroir. You eat, a lot, and no less than thirteen chefs, mostly from Toronto, but also from the United States, put your two-hour lunch into perspective. The idea is obviously excellent, whether you live in Toronto or on the side of the planet. Because these thirteen simultaneous dishes allow you to retrace the culinary landscape of this part of North America, notably in terms of products.

And finally, it would be an understatement to say that we were merely impressed by the intervention made by New Yorker Nathan Thornburgh, the editor of Roads & Kingdoms, who notably suggested that we bring food back into the news by projecting incredibly strong images. Like that soup that the Russians and Ukrainians share two version of the same recipe, which says a lot about the current conflict.

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