Article

The Future of Food in Tourism

Adventure Canada’s Taste of Place culinary program sources local delicacies directly from growers, harvesters, fishers, and brewers to support local food systems in Atlantic Canada. A key feature of our company's regenerative travel plan, this unique program combines food education, environmental conservation, and culture with delicious results!
Bill Swan with tarts and chowder at Red Bay Labrador

© Victoria Polsoni

At the expedition stop in Red Bay, Labrador, Adventure Canada guests had the chance to sample delicious bakeapple tarts and cod chowder as part of the Taste of Place program.

Partridge berry tarts, cod tongues, Arctic char chowder, seal loin, mustard pickles, and bottled beets. These dishes are equally a part of the Atlantic Canadian landscape as its blustery coastlines and friendly cultures.

Adventure Canada’s 2019 season included the first official trip featuring Taste of Place—a program that connects passengers to communities and culture through sustainably-sourced local cuisine—on a Newfoundland Circumnavigation expedition.

By tasting these dishes on board and at pop-ups in various communities (which often included dancing, music, and much laughter!), passengers directly connected with Newfoundland culture and together made a positive impact.

Changing the Industry

At the forefront of this program is Bill Swan, one of the co-founders of Adventure Canada, who has spent over a decade working to implement regenerative plans and actively improve food systems on a national level. He saw the company’s operations in these regions of rich, high quality supplies as a missed opportunity to travel more responsibly.

“I've always felt that the impact of expedition cruising can be positive across all three social, environmental, and economic fronts,” says Swan, “and food is this amazing bridge between all three of them.”

Swan describes how our food system is set up to be cheap and fast. This is especially true for meals aboard ships, particularly in isolated places like Newfoundland and Labrador. Supply and storage challenges mean onboard cuisine is often sourced from faraway places by unsustainable means, and much of it ends up going to waste.

Taste of Place cod dinner

© Victoria Polsoni

Connecting Food & Place

The Taste of Place program was therefore designed as a solution to an increasingly strained and defective food system. In true Adventure Canada style—learning through food, culture, music, arts, and science have long been at the core of their expeditions—it promotes local cuisine through culinary ambassadors.

The program was introduced on the Newfoundland Circumnavigation expedition in October of 2019, spearheaded by Lori McCarthy, a talented chef, outdoorswoman, and fierce advocate for the preservation of traditional food culture in Newfoundland through her company Cod Sounds.

McCarthy worked hard to load the Ocean Endeavour with fresh Newfoundland products such as seal, moose, and hand-picked partridge berries, and designed a menu that incorporated all these local flavours. She also spoke to passengers about her passion for locally sourced food and traditional family dishes. As Swan says: “She brought it into context and made it very personal.”

One thing that was important to both Swan and McCarthy was that the menus were designed with waste reduction in mind. Leftovers from previous servings, like mussels and moose, could easily be incorporated into upcoming meals. In the future, Swan also wants to develop an onboard composting system that offloads nutrient-rich soil to local communities.

Bill Swan Taste of Place

© Victoria Polsoni

Lori McCarthy, Taste of Place Ambassador, and Bill Swan, co-founder of Adventure Canada.

A Group Effort

In 2018, the program was tested through Adventure Canada’s partnership with Slow Food Canada and Flow Food USA, which paired a single meal with an educational program offering and got a positive response. Unsurprisingly, the launch of the larger program in 2019 was extremely well-received by guests, who particularly enjoyed the meals of seared seal loin and the hand-lined caught Fogo Island cod cheeks.

Adventure Canada also partnered with Ocean Wise, an organization that encourages consumers to choose sustainable seafood and promote ocean health. McCarthy and Swan made every effort to ensure that the seafood served aboard this trip was recommended by the reputable conservation group. In the end, says Swan, it’s about knowing where your food is coming from, and measuring your impact. “This is one of the critical breakdowns in the food system is that is increasingly lost,” says Swan.

The Taste of Place program has now been expanded to include Mighty Saint Lawrence expeditions, as well. “There's a deep richness of culture, history, and food in the Atlantic region and we're going to keep expanding Taste of Place as we can afford to from a human resource and financial level,” says Swan. “We hope it will bring some positive energy towards some solutions there too.”

About the Author

Amy van den Berg

Amy van den Berg

Writer

About the Author:

Amy is a writer from Oakville, Ontario. She loves to travel and explore new places.

She has an undergrad in international development and a master's degree in journalism, and has lived in Banff, Alberta, and Newcastle, Australia (despite being an awful skiier and surfer).

You can find her published work in The Walrus, Broadview magazine, and This Magazine. Visit her website to learn more.