Food is hot. And effective marketing can make or break whole industries. But not every effort in that direction pans out.
At least, that’s the view on one such promotional pitch, as reported by the National Post: “Ottawa sets up taxpayer-funded food truck in Mexico to promote Canadian cuisine (whatever that means)”
Canada has wonderful produce – and enjoys good food – but does Canada have a defined cuisine? As the Post article reports, some think this approach is wrong-headed:
David McMillan, co-owner of renowned Montreal restaurant Joe Beef, is tired of the trying.
“This whole ‘Canadian music, Canadian art, Canadian wine’ [thing] has to stop. It’s just ridiculous. All the time, it’s like everyone’s financed by insecurity and the CBC. It’s true, it’s a joke. We have to stop thinking that way.”
As the Post recounts – apart from very, very specific regional products – McMillan is among those who think food is bigger than borders. Marketers may need to think in terms of “shared identity” like “Pacific Northwest Cuisine”.
Another expert in the Post story also took a dim view:
John Higgins, director of Toronto’s George Brown Chef School, feels attempts like the Canadian government’s in Mexico City – the Agriculture Canada initiative is costing $50,000 – are well intentioned but a little bit lacking on execution, not exactly showcasing what Canadian food really is.
“It’s embarrassing,” he said. ”The thing is, we’ve got a wonderful country and all we can do is French fries?”
According to this CBC article this is a three-week pilot project running from April 10- 28. It (or something similar) could return, depending on the response. The truck is “operated by Mexican chef José Carlos Redon with the help of celebrity chef Jorge Valencia”. CBC host Robyn Bresnahan interviewed Valencia for “Ottawa Morning” earlier this month, that archived audio can be heard here.
A promotional announcement describing this aspect of “Canada Brand’ outreach by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada was issued on April 2nd. Here’s the menu it described:
The food truck will offer an appetizer, main dish, dessert and drink.
The special Canadian menu has a tasty array of Canadian agricultural products. It starts with a choice of either poutine a la Mexicana or a hardy lentil salad. The poutine features crisp Canadian French fries with melted Oaxaqueño cheese from Mexico–a fusion of two classic ingredients from two countries into one dish. The lentil salad will be crisp and fresh, perfect for a hot afternoon.
Jokes aside, it is an interesting topic. Farmers, grocers, restauranteurs, cooks and householders all want to know what’s good and what new thing (or old classic) they might want to try.
And hey! If Mexico sends a food truck to Ottawa pitching Mexican food, I’ll be first in line.
Does Canadian cuisine mean anything to you? What would have to happen to enhance that perception?