Challenges + Resources = Possibilities

Sometimes, I just have to say how much I enjoy my work.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a dinner here at the Centre to welcome Incentiveworks to the the MTCC and provide a glimpse of some of the new developments that have occurred in the last year. The dinner was held in one of our newly-minted meeting rooms, and we enjoyed Ontario Mimosas on the terrace before heading inside to an interactive 5-course Ontario tasting dinner, paired with VQA wines. Not only did I enjoy a fabulous meal, flawlessly executed by our team of chefs, but was invited to speak at each course about the locally sourced items we enjoyed, and the wines we paired with them. As a staunch advocate of the superior quality of Ontario-grown food, speaking about it, then eating it, was pretty much a dream gig.

It’s also quite possible they fed me to make sure I wouldn’t talk all night! It’s easy to be enthusiastic when each course that came out was a celebration of late summer in Ontario: crisp breast of Ontario duck with Saskatoon berry compote; creamy Best Baa Dairy sheep cheeses; gnocchi tossed with baby Napa and double-smoked bacon; a pretty pink-hued salad put together with produce from 100 km Foods; Niagara sugar-pear tarte tatin. The Niagara-region wines we enjoyed were perfect: a beautiful Tawse rose paired with the rosy salad and Monforte feta; a 2009 Semillion from Stratus that made me weak in the knees; a heady, black fruit-heavy Pinot Noir from Fielding, and a nectar-like late Harvest Vidal, courtesy of Peller Estates.

Tender greens, beet jewels, Monforte feta, watermelon radish, horseradish vinaigrette .

Afterward, I heard the kind of feedback that we’ve been hoping for since we revamped the menu and starting sourcing locally.

“This is NOT convention centre food.”

“I’ve never had such a great meal at a convention centre.”

“This was the best conference centre meal I have ever had.”

No one would argue that it is a challenge to stretch our culinary muscle and move beyond the perceived notion of what is served in a convention centre, but it is definitely easier when you start with fresh, seasonal products grown and produced by people who care about what they do. Our supplier partners did Ontario proud, and our chefs took their products to new heights, setting the bar high and doing the Centre proud. I’m looking forward to many more events that illustrate just what this event did: just what is possible.

For more information about the great local programmes at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, check out their blog here.

- Kelly Hughes, Local Food Procurement Officer at Metro Toronto Convention Centre