A Q&A with Destination Canada, Destination Ontario, and Destination Toronto on bringing MICHELIN to Canada
The Terminal editor Kathy Motton spoke with Marsha Walden, CEO & President of Destination Canada, Lisa LaVecchia, CEO & President of Destination Ontario, and Scott Beck, CEO & President of Destination Toronto, to discuss the expected impact on the culinary ecosystem of bringing the MICHELIN Guide to Toronto.
We’ve all known that Toronto has a rich and diverse culinary scene long prior to this announcement; what do you think it means now that it will receive more formalized international recognition?
Lisa: MICHELIN is a top recognition for a destination, and with Toronto being the first in Canada to receive this recognition, it enhances the ‘selling feature’ as a must-visit destination. As a marketing organization, new and noteworthy travel attributes like MICHELIN fuels the content that we share across all our marketing platforms. We know that culinary offerings are often at the top of the list when travellers choose a destination; this will allow us to provide a world-recognized reason to visit Ontario.
Scott: Attracting international visitors is important for our road to recovery. MICHELIN coming to Toronto brings increased global recognition of what Torontonians already know about the food scene in this incredible city. MICHELIN Guide Toronto provides an opportunity for us to educate global visitors on the vast array of delicious food available to visitors - from a breadth of cuisines and flavours to a variety of price points - Toronto restaurants can please many palates!
Marsha: Toronto’s induction marks an important recognition for one of Canada’s culinary capitals, and a means to stimulate demand for high value guests at a critical time for the industry. Culinary experiences are a significant contributor to the visitor economy, and as a lead partner in this initiative, Toronto will continue to remain top of mind for offering exceptional culinary experiences. The foodservices industry is the largest employer among tourism businesses, accounting for over half of tourism jobs. The more we can do to support and profile this top attraction for visitors, the better.
Now that MICHELIN is here, how will it act as a catalyst for other opportunities or initiatives for each of your destinations?
Marsha: The reputational lift of MICHELIN goes beyond tourism - it supports economic development, brings foreign investment and attracts new culinary and cultural talent to MICHELIN destinations. From a country wide perspective, we know that “Trying local food and drink” is a top vacation activity for all ten of Destination Canada’s target markets. And for domestic travellers, culinary experiences are a top driver of destination desirability. This initiative can only enhance our already vibrant and recognized offering of culinary experiences and inspire more travellers to try new ones.
Lisa: I’m in agreement with Marsha. The reputational lift is going to be a key catalyst. Especially in our international marketing activities, this is a big deal! We know that Toronto and Ontario more broadly are already on par with other international destinations, but this elevates the status even more. The Toronto MICHELIN Guide will be built into our marketing content, whether it is through media relations, business development, social media, or our marketing campaigns.
Scott: In agreement here as well! Our role as a DMO is to tell people about the incredible experiences awaiting them in our destinations, igniting their curiosity and inspiring them to come experience it for themselves. Talking about our culinary community with this level of international recognition provides us a platform of enormous magnitude to talk about the scope and scale of Toronto’s food scene in new and unique ways.
Michelin is best known for their “Stars” but with the Bib Gourmand and recommended restaurant designations, and the increased attention on sustainability through the MICHELIN Green Star, we have an opportunity to lean into the scale of our culinary scene, a scale enabled by the diversity of our community.
Last question. What aspects of Toronto’s culinary culture and community stand out to you? What do you think makes Toronto unique from other destinations?
Marsha: There is arguably no food scene in the world as diverse as the one in Toronto, with half of its population born outside of Canada. Ontario farmers grow more than 200 different agricultural products on 49,600 farms across the province. Food lovers can discover these fresh ingredients within Canada’s largest city of close to three million people in dining experiences that range from food carts, specialized food festivals, to markets, speakeasies, breweries and fine dining establishments.
Toronto now also has the distinction of the first Canadian city to be featured by Michelin Guides, with a selection of restaurants to be named this fall. What sets it apart is Toronto’s reputation as a city of neighborhoods, many of which embrace a reflection of their heritage and multicultural culinary roots. One of the best ways to experience the rich diversity and culture is by exploring these neighborhoods through food.
Lisa: To a degree, many destinations may have some level of a diverse culinary scene, but in Toronto our diverse culinary scene is enriched with the multicultural communities and neighbourhoods that surround it. Whether it is a restaurant that enhances your culinary experience with live musical talent in the background, or an entire festival weekend where the restaurants bring their flavours out onto the streets, Toronto’s diversity is like no other and is what makes it exceptionally unique.
Scott: Another amazing part of Toronto’s culinary culture is the fusion that develops as a result of its diversity. As Marsha mentioned, 53% of all Torontonians are born outside of this country, which is why the culinary scene is so naturally diverse. It’s not unusual for a Toronto Chef to be born in one country, train in another, and bring those influences here to Toronto. Toronto kitchens can also be very collaborative. Culinary fusion exists in many communities, but the way it is embraced as a natural part of who we are is the most inspirational and unique part of our culinary landscape.