Local Food Challenge: University of Toronto Celebrates Local at Field To Fork 2013

This has become a bit of a blog cliché for people who cover food events. But I’m going to go there anyway: I love my job! This past Thursday, I spent the day at Willcocks Commons, tasting my way through booths set up by the team of chefs at the University of Toronto, each one serving their delicious interpretations of seasonal Ontario food. This year was extra special because the event also celebrated the launch of the UeaT Take the Local Food Challenge initiative, whereby students sign up and pledge to buy, eat, and request local food both on campus, and off. The program was funded with a grant from the Greenbelt Fund’s 2013 Local Food Challenge. The university’s Chef and Director of Food Services Jaco Lokker has been busy with an ambitious marketing and outreach campaign to get students educated and excited about Ontario food.

As we all know, tasting is believing, and the U of T chefs did not disappoint. Locally grown hot peppers were blended into hot sauce and served with Ontario beef and house-canned pickles in a brisket slider from Victoria University Chef Nathan Barratt. Chef Joe Soroka from New College offered a perfectly spiced aloo gobi to accompany a butter chicken dish, made with local meat and dairy. From Chef Michael Kobayashi at University College there was vegetarian chili and cornbread. Chef Lokker at Chestnut Residence filled cups with braised beef, sage mash, sautéed beets, pea shoots, and crème fraiche, and Chef Stefan Howard from the Exchange Café served Greek style donuts dipped in honey and served in sustainable bamboo cones (the honey was from the hives at Casa Loma, naturally).

At the sign-up booth, students were lined up to take the pledge and snag one of the cool backpack buttons made up to message their commitment to eat more locally, and thoughtfully. A packed street, a warm September day, and the bounty of the harvest all came together for a great cause: rallying another generation of eaters to support local food and farming in Ontario. Bon appetit!

-Kelly Hughes 
Education and Outreach Specialist