Arlene has worked for over 25 years in event management, food program design and marketing communications. She is the Executive Director of TERROIR HOSPITALITY, which takes place annually each spring in Toronto, Canada. She is also a speaker of food system issues and a curator of gastronomic programs world wide.
First off, tell us about what you do.
I currently run the annual Terroir Symposium – a not-for-profit committee of industry professionals that puts on an annual symposium bringing together education, networking and collective resources to build a community that helps to strengthen our industry. The focus of our 10th year is more consumer program driven. We’ll also have three satellite events in Norway, Minneapolis and Montreal. Aside from Terroir, i’m involved with food writing and contract food program for various clients that I really enjoy like Evergreen Canada.
Tell us a bit about how you’ve worked with Branding and Buzzing.
Terroir has worked in partnership with Branding and Buzzing for the past three years to bring to life some innovative concepts around craft brewing. Last year they helped us come up with content for the symposium itself, and this year we teamed up with the buzzing team to build a consumer dining series which allowed some of our Terroir delegates to showcase collaborative meals for Toronto dinners paired with Samuel Adams beer.
When you started building your hospitality community, how did you spread the word?
Our organization has been a grassroots movement within the hospitality community since our inception in 2007. We have built great relationships with producers, wine experts, chefs, restaurateurs and media who have given us a tremendous amount of support. Our network has been built through those relationships.
What are some of the challenges you face working in the food and hospitality industry?
In the beginning, it was about creating the conversation – getting people to trust that an annual formal education and inspiration was a necessity in order to build and strengthen our industry. Today 10 years later, it’s more about the amount of work that is being done within the industry. We in fact will be looking at diversifying our program after our 10th anniversary.
What experts in the hospitality industry have been your biggest influence?
Well there are the obvious big hitters who I think have revolutionized our industry like Rene Redzepi and David Chang. The ones that have been my biggest influence are those individuals that have helped to build the Terroir program including our committee members, local producers, chefs and restauranteurs in Canada. I think we have an exceptional breadth of talent in Canada in our culinary marketplace right now – and I hope that in some small way as a national community we can help share our story with the world.
What advice would you give to newcomers in this industry?
I think if individuals want to become involved with the hospitality industry they need to love it and then they need to commit to it. It’s not the easiest business to be in – hard work, long hours and for the early years of your career not much money. The payoff is that you will work in an exceptionally creative industry with super dynamic people and have a flexible(ish) schedule. There are also more opportunities to grow within the hospitality industry than there was 20 years ago.
What upcoming culinary trends do you see in the hospitality industry?
I think the next evolution of the culinary world, will not happen on the plate. But rather will focus on collaborating with communities and building human relationships. Our world is now so connected thanks to social media and the proliferation of chef partnerships, food conferences and hospitality symposiums shows a strong desire for individuals to want to collaborate.
What are some of the coolest culinary inventions you’ve come across during Terroir?
I think the coolest thing I’ve come across during Terroir is the connection between food and environment. During the symposium, chefs would look to wild and native food in their natural habitat to use as ingredients.
What’s one thing everyone should know about you?
I love restaurants, and being a part of this business. I have been working in this industry for 25 years and have done every front of house job from bar back to hostess to General Manager. I started Terroir because I genuinely believed that bringing people together in an annual forum could help strengthen our industry – this is truly a passion project for me.
What do you do when you aren’t attending events or networking?
I spend a lot of time travelling and attending events, but what I really like to do is entertain friends at home and spend time with family.