INFLUENCER: Arlene Stein, Food Community Builder
Adam Waxman A modern day Platonic Symposium, Terroir gathers international industry leaders over food and wine to share ideas about the hospitality industry. With this Toronto-based event, you’ve harvested intellectual seeds that have germinated critical thought on sustainability, community building and global food issues, garnering attention and influence across Canada and around the world. Was that your aim? Arlene Stein The Symposium itself has always been about professional development in the field of hospitality. Terroir was created as a metaphor for all the elements that combined together to make up this industry— whether it’s a chef, a sommelier, a front of house manager, or a supplier, producer, or even the marketing/ PR end of it. Our logo, the colour wheel, is emblematic of all of these pieces coming together to create a nucleus, an industry.
A.W. What was your impulse to create this? A.S. When we created Terroir 10 years ago, people didn’t share information. At that time if you wanted to meet up with your colleagues it would typically be at wine tastings. For myself, working in the front of house, it was frustrating, because I wanted to see more of a seriousness placed on the business, and I believed the way to do that was through education, networking and sharing. We should be thinking about training ourselves and becoming more invested and more educated. There isn’t another forum in Canada where people convene this way.
A.W. To what do you attribute its success? A.S. Community. As we’ve grown, all the people we’ve engaged over time have become more invested. They feel an ownership. It’s been a true grass roots evolution. Terroir has brought industry people together as a gathering point; helped create real business opportunities for those who attend—and that’s why people come, because they know those connections get made during the conference—and it’s been inspirational and educational. Canadians from every province are coming. They say, ‘We come because this is the moment every year where we can connect with our friends, our colleagues; where we get to share what we’ve done over the past year.’
A.W. What is the theme for Terroir’s 10th? A.S. For 2016, it’s Arts, Culture and Technology. The event will happen throughout the Art Gallery of Ontario. Technology is becoming very prevalent, and this is the moment to incorporate it.
A.W. Terroir caters to the industry, not to the consumer. A.S. Our belief is that we impact the industry, and it impacts the consumer. We’re strictly a business-to-business event. That said, this year we experimented with consumer collaborative dinners. The reason was twofold: we can touch the consumer with our content providers, and capitalize on attendance by giving the speakers another outlet to express their ideas and philosophies. It was super-successful, and we’re continuing that next year with another five dinners. I’m planning one with a chef from Israel who will work in collaboration with folks in Toronto to put on a culturally significant dinner at Frank [in the AGO] immediately following the symposium.
A.W. Where do you see Terroir headed? A.S. Smaller one-off events in different locations; delving into deeper issues that are consistent in the food industry—not unlike a concept we just completed in Newfoundland, where we worked with a partner organization, Chefs for Oceans, invited a small group of industry people, examined one particular issue through the lens of that network, and created a story for a broader audience. For 2016, my plan is to do something similar in Norway, Minneapolis and Montreal.
A.W. Your mission seems to be global in that you are connecting local movements around the world. A.S. We all share the same considerations and challenges with respect to our food system and distribution issues, and I think we learn from each other by sharing in that way. Through these events we’re not only bringing content providers together to have conversations and to cook, but to really think about one particular issue in a way that we might not have before, and learn something from different experts. We all have different expertise depending on where we’re coming from in the world. Bringing together different points of view allows people to grow.
Our logo, the colour wheel, is emblematic of all of these pieces coming together to create a nucleus, an industry