Leveraging Our Opportunities

Written by Bryan Lavery

Let’s Send Visitors Home Praising London

Figure skating fans from around the world will be coming to London in March for the 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships. The best figure skaters in the world, from over 50 different countries, will participate in the event from March 10 to 17, 2013, at the Budweiser Gardens (formerly John Labatt Centre), as they compete for the title of World Champion.

And the event’s festivities don’t end on the ice. Through the “Light up London” initiative and on-site Fan Fair, the entire London community will be engaged in a full week of celebrations. The Fan Fair will take place at the Covent Garden Market and Budweiser Gardens, and will feature family-oriented activities, including games, activity stations and an outdoor vendor marketplace. “Light up London” will cover the downtown core in purple, white and silver — the color themes of this year’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships — with participating restaurants featuring special WFSC themed menu items, in-house activities, contests and decorations.

The competition schedule will begin with a full practice day for the competitors on March 10 and end with an exhibition gala featuring all of the medalists on March 17. All-event tickets include access to all practices and competitions and the exhibition gala.

For the local community and the culinary community in particular, who will be an important part of the festivities, it will be the first sporting event held in downtown London to be televised around the world to millions.

An event the size of the world championships is not only going to raise London’s profile around the globe, but it will also have a tremendous economic and cultural impact as well. Skate Canada is projecting this event will generate 28 million dollars in revenue in London. Audiences for this type of event are generally well-educated and have a high level of disposable income.

Tourism London wants us all to be proud Londoners, proud to show off our city. “You can’t pay for that kind of advertising.” If we understand the motivation of a culinary tourist and what they are looking for, we can leverage our culinary businesses and send visitors home from London to tell their friends about the amazing experience they had. What better, more cost-effective marketing can you get than word of mouth?

Taste of Ontario’s Southwest

As a long-time proponent of culinary tourism, I was pleased to help identify and showcase the diversity of culinary experiences found in Ontario’s Southwest last year by writing a culinary tourism guide. My colleagues and I collaborated with the Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation (SWOTC) and developed criteria to determine inclusion in the guide. The criteria were also used to evaluate and highlight each destination’s distinct regional culinary assets. We identified assets that embrace and promote the mandate of culinary tourism’s farm-to-table philosophy. Ontario’s Southwest Culinary Guide provides travellers with an overview of restaurants, wineries, retail shops, producers, products, and farmers’ markets that are noted for their abundance of local, seasonal options, and it showcases the best each destination has to offer. Read the Ontario’s Southwest Culinary Tourism Guide by visiting the website (

Recently I was asked to organize the culinary portion of Taste of Ontario’s Southwest in conjunction with the Culinary Tourism Summit, the Ontario Tourism Summit, and the launch of Skate Canada at the Budweiser Gardens.

The evening’s Taste of Ontario’s Southwest featured superb locally sourced food samplings from chefs and farmers throughout the RTO1 region, along with spectacular ice carvings and a skating display. Many of the region’s top-flight chefs were invited to participate. There were over twenty tasting stations highlighting food, farmers, wine and brews from Ontario’s Southwest. As a tribute to the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, a skating exhibition took place at centre ice, followed by professional ice sculptors that carved four unique pieces representing the region, alongside a six-foot Ice Skater sculpture.

Visionary chefs like Andrew Wolwowitcz of The Springs (Local Venison with a Chocolate Pomegranate Gastrique), Chad Stewart and Joshua Fevens of Garlic’s of London (Braised Elk with Root Vegetable Stew and Duck Confit Crostini with Chevre and Fig-Pinenut Chutney), Danijel “Dacha” Markovic of Kantina (Roasted Red Pepper Gazpacho with C’est Bon Chevre Mousse, and Field Gate Farms’ Organic Chicken Aymokac with Arva flour Corn Bread), Julie Glaysher of Idlewyld Inn and Avenue Dining (Willowgrove Farm-Smoked Bacon and Beet Lollipops and Vegetable Terrine with C’est Bon Goat Cheese), Kim Sutherland of Ovations at the Budweiser Gardens (Spiced Pulled Pork with Ontario Apple and Red Onion Chutney), Robbin Azzopardi of Auberge du Petit Prince (Confit Metzger Farm Short Ribs with C’est Bon Chevre, Local Potato Chips, and Local Trout with Apple-Radish Salad on Artisan Bakery Crostini), and Erin Harris of the Cheese Poet ( Local Artisan Cheese, Kinehdn Maple Sugar Floss, Kitchen Maven Preserves, Cheese Poet’s Arva flour Artisan Crackers) are all known for advancing seasonality and local specialty ingredients by crafting seminal cooking experiences in their kitchens. Luis Rivas of True Taco and Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market was also on hand to prepare a trio of handmade miniature tacos: chorizo, barbacoa and vegetable.

Out-of-town chefs like Rino Bortolin at Rino’s Kitchen in Windsor (Warm Mushroom Trio with Muscedere Winery Pinot Noir Tomato Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella, and a Roasted Butternut Squash, Apple and Fennel Salad), Kim Saunders of the Windjammer Inn in Elgin (Lake Erie Pickerel Cakes with Sweet Potato Biscuits and “Iron Spike” Pulled Pork), Paresh Thakar of Personal Touch Eatery and Catering in Sarnia (Purdy’s Pickerel Asian-inspired Ceviche with Sweet Corn and Daikon, Whitefish Roe and Lena’s Lamb Rogan Josh with Basmati rice, Yukon Gold Patty and Cucumber Raita), Heather Pond-Manorome of the Blue Elephant in Norfolk (Van Berlo Farms’ Sweet Potato Bread Pudding, Maple Ridge Maple Caramel Sauce, and Fett Farms’ Fully-Loaded Baked Potato Soup with Jensen Cheese and V.G. Packers Bacon), Paul and Sara Spence of Experience Casa Latina in Chatham-Kent (featured Nipissing Game Farms Quail), and Rich Hunter of King Edward Pub in Ilderton (signature DelMac farms Middlesex County Lamb Burgers) all spoke to their terroir and culinary provenance through locally sourced ingredients and products and seasonal offerings. Cheese­maker Shep Ysselstein from Oxford County showcased his cheesemaking skills, featuring Semi-hard 5-month Farmstead Cow Milk Cheese — Appenzeller style, Hard 5-month Farmstead Cow Milk Cheese — Alpine style, and a 5-month Farmstead Sheep Gouda and Cheddar cheese.

Michelle Lendhardt of The River Room and North Moore Catering prepared a stunning array of desserts: Chocolate Ganache with Pumpkin Mascarpone Cheese, Almond Petit Fours with Pear Butter and Spun Maple Sugar, Raspberry Spheres, and Lemon tart with Sour Cherry Compote. Several flavours of “liquid nitrogen” ice cream were made in front of the guests: Local Goat Cheese, Caramel and Fleur de Sel, Honey and Lavender, and Chocolate Praline Chestnut. Habitual Chocolate and Fire Roasted Coffee both showcased their ethically sourced, fair trade, locally roasted products.

Ontario’s Southwest is a hot spot of culinary activity. Nowhere is that love of all things food more evident than in the growth of culinary tourism. Culinary tourism, as defined by the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, “includes tourism experiences in which one learns about, appreciates and or consumes food and drink that reflects regional or national cuisine, heritage, culture, tradition or culinary techniques.” Culinary Regionalism includes characteristic culinary and agricultural features special to a particular region. It recognizes uniqueness and the idiosyncratic characteristics and culture of the places where the food is produced and of the people who produce it.

Bryan Lavery is eatdrink magazine’s Writer at Large and Contributing Editor. He can be reached at

About the author

Bryan Lavery

Eatdrink Food Editor and Writer at Large Bryan Lavery brings years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, as a chef, restaurant owner and consultant. Always on the lookout for the stories that Eatdrink should be telling, he helps shape the magazine both under his byline and behind the scenes.