Highlights from the Culinary Federation’s national conference in Niagara

By Kira Smith, President CF Oakville

With its fertile soil, Ontario’s Niagara region is well known for growing a wide variety of produce in Canada. For the week of May 28, 2019, it was also a place of growth for chefs and young chefs as they gathered for the Culinary Federation’s 56th National Conference. The agenda was jam packed with networking opportunities, education sessions, culinary competitions and a mini trade show, not to mention great food, great fun and lively emceeing from chef Rocco Paradiso, who encouraged everyone to step outside their comfort zones and start networking.

While it would be impossible to recount the entire week, we’ve gathered a collection of highlights and pictures to share.

Connection and Community

Our evening social events proved to be appetizing opportunities to mix, mingle and meet, enabling our chefs and partners to connect in person and explore new opportunities. Many thanks to the Central Region branches for their delicious participation in the icebreaker. The Italian social night was full of food and joy, with live mozzarella pulling demonstrations by chef Luciano Schipano, non-stop fresh pizza from chef Carmelo Vadacchino and his Fornoteca oven, wine and beer tastings and even a wandering accordion player.

With new friends made, the conference gave chef members the chance to not only explore the community, but contribute to it. Creations and excess ingredients from the Culinary Team Challenge event were donated to the Niagara Soup Kitchen, a volunteer-based charitable organization which prepares more than 42,000 meals annually for those in need.

The spousal program and tour days gave conference-goers the opportunity to experience all things local, including an insider’s tour of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College, an immersive Niagara Wine Country tasting tour, and a bus tour to the other side of the falls to visit Rosina Foods’ new state-of-the-art meatball and pasta facilities and customer focus centre just across the Falls in Buffalo, New York. Naturally, people went on the classic Niagara adventures well, including the journey behind the falls, Niagara’s fury and the Falls Incline Railway, and visited the world-renowned Butterfly Conservatory.

Recognizing our Best

At the President’s Dinner, we acknowledged two long-standing members, Nelles Shackleton, from B.C., and Marcia Budd, from Ontario, with honorary memberships, and presented chef Carmelo Vadacchino of Oakville branch with the coveted Chef of the Year award in recognition of his significant contributions to the industry and Culinary Federation over the last year.

Culinary Skills and Development

Conference attendees attended the diverse array of education sessions. Worldchefs, a global association of culinary professions focused on education and development, led a session on sustainability; chef John Placko, who developed the menu at Pearson Airport’s Bar 120, led chefs through a session on molecular gastronomy; Canada Beef instructed chefs on the finer points of butcher; the Wellness Soldier, a veterans’ health organization, oversaw a session on cooking with cannabis; and Sysco and Seasons’ Retirement Communities led sessions on dining trends for Gen Z and Retirement-age consumers, respectively.

The weekend’s education session didn’t stop at teaching new skills, though. Unilever presented its Fair Kitchens initiative, which promotes inclusive workplaces predicated on diversity, communication and work-life balance. Edmonton-based chef Peter Keith, co-founder of In the Weeds, an organization promoting mental health in Edmonton’s hospitality industry, led a panel discussion about how to promote positive mental health in kitchen environments.

Keep Growing

Branches from across Canada took part in an interactive Branch Health session to share in the development of new initiatives for the Federation and learn from others’ best practices. This is part of an ongoing commitment to change and renewal so stay tuned for more progress in the coming months.

The CF Oakville Branch, Central Region, and National Board would like to thank all of those that took part – delegates, spouses and sponsors alike. We look forward to seeing you in Saskatoon for the 2020 National Conference!

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