Ontario Food Hero – Connector

Here we will profile people in this province who help shape the way we eat, cook and think about food.

These two gals will kick your ass if they catch you eating fast food

This woman is behind almost every significant food event that takes place in Toronto. When she’s not organizing the Picnic at the Brickworks, World Food Week, Palais D’hiver, the Slow Food Chef Dinner Series, the Craft Beer Festival and Terroir, she is also the co-chair for Slow Food Toronto. Her twelve year old daughter Hannah is a heritage apple that didn’t fall far from the organic activist tree, as you can see by this article she recently had published in one of our favourite sources for local food news GoodFoodRev.

Arlene Stein, connector & foodist (‘my daughter coined that one!’)

Where did you start out in the food world?

I had humble beginnings.  I started as a cocktail waitress and then a bartender and then a manager.  Every place I worked they kept making me the manager and it became more and more difficult to leave.  I never wanted to work in food, especially restaurants, but eventually I fell in love with the passion and creativity of the people in the hospitality industry.  At Hart House, under the banner of Social Justice, I was able to develop programming around issues of food security and sustainability.

What changes have you seen over the years in how the people you meet feel about local farmers and food?

The most significant change that people are making is the relationships and the conversations we are building with our food producers. As a community concerned with creating a sustainable food system, we need to help support each other, know the challenges and understand how the entire food system works.

The industrial model of food production has lead our society to many decades of no connection or understanding of the food we are putting on the table. With all the recent health issues around safe food handling, people are not willing to simply trust the system anymore. People are starting to ask questions about where their food comes from and they want to have a connection with the person(s) who produced it.

Society is also more likely to support change when they have met a farmer struggles to feed his/her own family, or can’t afford another piece of machinery. Connecting with food producers builds an understanding of our food system and helps to create a community and a richer food culture.

what is your favourite vegetable?

I have always loved artichokes. You don’t get much from them but they are the most divine and lovely of all vegetables.

When I was in Italy two years ago for Terre Madre we had pickled Brindisino, which are a smaller variety with a violet hue, simply delicious.  My favorite way to eat them is boiled lightly and dipped in butter.


farm animal?

To pet or to eat? I love rabbit stew, but have to also admit to owning one as a pet.

season?

Fall is the best season, especially in Southern Ontario. The turning leaves, the lakes, chilly nights and campfires, and of course it’s harvest time. How can you love food and not love the fall?

Where are some of your favourite places in Ontario for food and drink?

Toronto of course!  We have many spectacular restaurants with chefs that are committed to supporting a local food system.  They are a committed group of individuals that work hard to showcase producers from all over Southern Ontario.

I’m in love with Stratford and I think it has one of the most dynamic culinary scenes in a rural setting.  Favorite places – Soiled Reputation, Straford Brewing, Monforte Dairy, Bijou, Rundles, The Chef School, Fosters, Down the Street.

I like staying at inns and resorts.  I just came back from the Elmhirst for my third visit and each time I return more impressed with their hospitality and the commitment they put into their resort. They have an exclusive VQA wine list and raise their own cattle and even use Red Fife wheat to make their own pasta.  It’s a really special place.

I also really like Sir Sams on Eagle Lake, because I love the Haliburtons, especially in the fall when the drive up HWY 35 is so spectacular. Arowhon Pines in Algonquin park is like a little piece of paradise in the summer.

There is no better place to watch the sunset over lake Ontario than on the patio of the Devonshire Inn in Wellington, PEC and the Black Dog pub is worth the three hour drive to the willow lined streets of Bayfield on Lake Huron.

Our hero is on the left, the littlest locavore at four years old.


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