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Bits and bites of Canada

During the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino there were 400,000 meals served to the workforce, over 100,000 meals dished up to the athletes in the three Olympic villages, and 160 eating facilities set up to feed all of the spectators, athletes, wor

During the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino there were 400,000 meals served to the workforce, over 100,000 meals dished up to the athletes in the three Olympic villages, and 160 eating facilities set up to feed all of the spectators, athletes, workforce, members of the Olympic family, sponsors and journalists. In total, there were over 30,000 bottles of wine and 1,200,000 litres of soft drinks consumed in the Olympic venues.

Clearly, food is a big part of the Olympic experience and the folks from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada see the Games as a great opportunity to showcase food suppliers to the multitude of spectators, athletes, sponsors and media that are coming to the area.

To help Canadian food suppliers and producers make connections with food service providers (the companies that have contracts at various Olympic hotspots) they recently hosted a special exhibition that would allow producers to showcase their product variety, availability and capacity to the caterers, executive chefs and menu decision-makers.

Eighty-four Canadian food producers and processors showed up to take part in the event at the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver on Oct. 5. They were busily handing out samples to invited guests in the hope that there might be room on the menu to include their products in February 2010.

Jeffrey Lang is the 2010 Winter Games Product Sourcing Advisor for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Lang and his colleagues across the country have been working with Canadian food producers and processors to help them leverage opportunities connected with the Games. Specifically, they want to make sure that people who come to Vancouver and Whistler for the Olympics are able to showcase what the country's various regions have to offer.

"When it comes to food, who doesn't like it? It's an easy sell, it's something a visitor will certainly remember about the trip," Lang said.

While he believes many of the food service providers are already sourcing products locally, whenever possible he points out that limited seasonal availability in February may pose a few challenges, ones that he hopes to avoid by connecting them with the right suppliers and producers.

So, for example, the coordinators of Ontario House are probably going to try and source as many ingredients as they can from their home province. But there may be items they can't bring with them, so they were invited to come to the exhibition and find out what is available elsewhere.

Aside from food served at official venues like the athletes' village, there are lots of other areas, like celebration sites, Four Host First Nations pavilions and national houses, that will be providing food service during the Games.

"A lot of them have a hospitality component," said Lang. There will be food, people need to eat."

Lang sees some of the biggest opportunities for Canadian food producers taking place outside of the "Olympic fence," in places where visitors and sponsors from around the world will have the opportunity to taste what Canadians are cooking up.

While B.C. companies have the natural geographic advantage when it comes to sourcing regionally, about 10 companies from other parts of Canada attended to showcase their wares. Featured items included a brand-new apple variety, Schramm vodka, which is produced in Pemberton, and other unique concepts like, based out of Manitoba, which allows people to transfer a high-resolution photo onto the surface of a cookie.

While Lang couldn't say if there were any contracts signed as a result of the exhibition, he is aware of a number of strong leads that were developed.

"It's a trememdous opportunity. We're really committed to helping Canadian food producers leverage these opportunities."


An extra scoop

The entrance to Araxi was transformed into the gates of Hell on Tuesday evening - Hell's Kitchen, that is.

The restaurant hosted a special season finale party with all four finalists - Tennille, Ariel, Kevin and Dave - in attendance, mixing and mingling with fans and foodies alike. With a line-up stretching out of the front door and over to Cittas, almost 300 people braved the cold and anted up $125 a pop to watch the final two-hour episode of the season. Of course, they also indulged in the Araxi experience, nibbling on canapés, sushi and freshly shucked oysters, and sipping on wine and cocktails as they gazed at the many flat-screen televisions set up throughout the dining room, and chatted with the final four contenders.

In the end, however, it was Dave who came out on top of the pack. Now, he'll be making the move from his current home in San Diego, California, and setting up shop here in Whistler, where he plans to make plenty of use of the local skate park (just take it easy on that wrist!)