Travelling for food

The producer of Food, Inc. is in town to explain how travelling eaters can help build a local food economy.

Culinary tourism. Not a phrase you hear everyday. But for three days next week, Halifax is set to become a mecca for all things culinary tourism. The inaugural One World, One Table - Culinary Tourism Summit begins Sunday with over 150 food- industry folk dropping in from across the globe---here to learn how culinary tourism can bolster the economy. 

"It's going to be a great event," says Erik Wolf, president of the International Culinary Tourism Association and a presenter of the summit. "Halifax is a great culinary destination."

Not everyone is travelling to shop, play golf or go to the ballet, but everyone eats---a fact upon which the culinary tourism movement was founded.

Besides, the notion of culinary tourism is definitely not exclusive to people from away.

"You're still a visitor on the other side of town," says Wolf.

Highlights of the conference include a talk by Food Inc. producer Robert Kenner on social responsibility to support local agriculture and cuisine and a keynote speech from famed Food Network chef Michael Smith.

(Tickets for this Monday morning talk are on sale for $30 to non-conference goers.)

"The conference deals a lot with fresh, local, organic, seasonal and sustainable," says Wolf, who coined the term culinary tourism and has since become the go-to on all things to do with culinary travel.

"I'll be talking about how the world has changed since the last great depression, giving some good news and prognosis for the next 10 years."

The summit features more than 20 other sessions on topics ranging from the future of local and independent restaurants to social media marketing for culinary tourism professionals. Delegates are also invited to take part in two mobile workshops at an extra cost of $95 per session.

The first, at L'Acadie Vineyards, takes delegates on a tour of the vineyard, with tastings and appetizer pairings. Also included are a chat about cool-climate grape growing and winemaking in the province. 

At the second, at Fox Hill Cheese House, delegates can see how this sixth-generation family farm produces their cheese from grain to milk to consumers---including a look at their business practices.

Back at the convention centre, there will be food. 

"We've taken a lot of care in crafting menus that use as much local Nova Scotia product as possible," says Wolf.

"You don't get boring conference food with us." But despite his efforts to feature local coffee from Just Us at the conference, Trade Centre Limited has yet to agree to replace their regular coffee supplier for those three days.

At the outset, conference organizers aimed to attract more than 300 people to the city, but in the end, only half will make it.

"Trying to get 300 delegates into Halifax is just too expensive," he says. "People want the information. They don't want all the frills." 

Next year, Wolf and the ICTA will begin a world tour to counter that problem. Visiting 10 cities annually, Wolf hopes to reach out to a broader community and drastically reduce the gross carbon footprint incurred by such conferences.

The summit runs from September 19-21 at the World Trade and Convention Centre. Check out culinarytourismworldsummit.com for more information.

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