Happy Food Day, Canada! While it makes sense to celebrate Canada’s food bounty 365 days a year, it’s a great idea to set aside one day where people across the country can come together to shine the spotlight on Canadian produce, meat, fish and dairy products.
For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been running interviews with some of the chefs whose restaurants are marking Food Day Canada by offering special menus centred around local food products. In today’s final installment, we have a few words from chef Michael Smith. While chef Smith is best known to Canadians as a popular Food Network personality, he’s also been a longtime advocate for Canadian cuisine. He was named official Food Ambassador in his home province of Prince Edward Island in 2009, and in January 2011, launched a web series called Food Country to showcase PEI food and the people who help produce it. Chef Smith is also one of the food personalities on the judging panel for the various awards that will be handed out as part of Food Day Canada 2011.
Enjoy the interview, and have fun celebrating Food Day!
What do you love about cooking in Prince Edward Island?
Prince Edward Island is a giant green farm floating in the bounty of the deep blue sea, surrounded by sandy white beaches and full of the ingredients, chefs and culinary artisans that make us one of the worlds great culinary tourism destinations. We are an island of food stories that you will share for a lifetime!
PEI has really been focusing on the promotion of its food production and culinary talent in the two years since you were named the province’s Food Ambassador. What does it mean for you to be part of this initiative, and what do you think it means for PEI to have you involved?
I learned how to be a chef in PEI. I learned how powerful it is to make local food connections, to make your cooking personal. Being Food Ambassador is my chance to give back to an island that has given me so much.
How have local factors such as geography, economics and demographics influenced your cooking style?
All over the world we cook with what’s in our back yard. This is what defines cuisine, when food tastes of time and place.
How has the local food scene on the Island evolved over the years?
PEI’s food scene has grown dramatically over the last 20 years, well past potatoes and lobsters. We have cutting-edge aquaculture, farmers markets around every turn, innovative crops, culinary artisans and organic market gardens sprouting everywhere. Our chefs have kept pace and we’re blessed with a thriving local food and restaurant culture.
What are your thoughts on the idea that there is a “Canadian cuisine”?
Canada is a giant land mass and we welcome customs from all over the world, thus we have many regional and ethnic threads woven into our giant tapestry of national cuisine.
How will you be celebrating Food Day?
I’ll celebrate Food Day with a chefs reunion at The Inn at Bay Fortune. Every year, many of the chefs that have cooked at the Inn return for one great big celebration meal!