Among its many other admirable activities, The Ontario Hostelry Institute (its purpose outlined above) gives out annual “Gold Awards” to eight Ontarians involved in the food and hospitality industry.
I feel a bit like the guy in the picture up there, the one standing on the golden platform tooting a horn, but I’m delighted to report that I was one of those lucky Gold Award recipients, recognized in the category of Media/Publishing at the OHI Awards Dinner and Auction in Toronto last week.
I can’t begin to tell you how thrilling it was and I am enormously grateful to the OHI, its Chair and President Charles Grieco and members of the selection committee for the honour.
Each of we eight Gold Award recipients was given 90 seconds at the microphone to say thank you (and whatever else we wanted to say… quickly). Here, for the record, and for the fun of it, is what I said (more or less).
“When I discovered the Gold Awards Dinner and Auction would be held here at the new Four Seasons Hotel, it tweaked a powerful memory. I did the math. Here’s what it told me: it was 30 years ago (to the month) I began working in the kitchens of this hotel. I was an unpaid apprentice. The year was 1983 and Niels Kjeldsen was my boss. I was pretty much the lone girl in a kitchen brigade of 27 guys, not one of them the slightest bit impressed with my freshly minted degree from LaVarenne Ecole de Cuisine, Paris.
They kept me busy painting aspic on canapés, shucking oysters, peeling things. For a solid week I stood on a stool, my job to keep the orange juice machine from gumming up. And finally, finally, weeks later, the fearsome Niels Kjeldsen let me take my place on the Truffles dinner line.
Please understand, I was hugely grateful for that experience but it was likely right here, all those years ago, I figured out this wasn’t for me. I decided I’d really rather write about those who cook for a living, than cook for a living.
I’ve been doing that, in my adopted city since 1991, and it’s been a privilege to report on the emerging restaurant scene in Canada’s beautiful capital. We are much more delicious than we used to be.”
I was surrounded by pioneers in the hospitality industry last week. By artisans and chefs, restaurateurs and innkeepers, educators and hoteliers and suppliers, writers and publishers. And to be among them, honoured in this way, was a thrill of a lifetime.
In addition to the yearly Gold Awards, the OHI does a number of great things for the hospitality industry in Ontario. It particular, it looks to the future, nurturing the next generation, raising funds for scholarships to support the brightest and best students seeking careers in the industry. It honours the Top 30 Under 30 (among them this year, chef Luis David Calero of Ottawa’s Atelier Restaurant). And congratulations as well, to Chef Marc Lepine who was inducted into the OHI as a 2013 Fellow of the Institute in recognition of his professional achievements.
My fellow Gold Award honourees were Hart Melvin, President and Founder of Gelato Fresco Inc. (Supplier); Bob Desautels, of Borealis Grillhouse Pub in Guelph (Independent Restaurateur); David Martin, Director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University (Educator); Chef Lynn Crawford, co-owner/chef Ruby Watchco, Toronto (Chef category); Jeff Fuller, President Joey Restaurant Group (Foodservice Chain Operator); Mario Pingue Jr., (Artisan category) General Manager of Niagara Food Specialties; and David Smythe, (Hotelier of the year) GM of the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa! Congratulations to all.