The month of February flew by quickly with the setup and now packup of the Olympics in Vancouver. Just a month ago, pavilions were just starting to be built. Everyday on my walk along the seawall there would be something new to see.
Then the Olympics started, bringing along with it people from all over the world, skilled chefs from all over the world, beautiful tourism pavilions, clothing, flags, paraphernalia, pins, music, culture…oh… and the athletes and medals! Can you believe it ?? Canadians broke the record for the number of gold medals in the Winter Olympics – all 14 of them!
As the days inched closer, I was excited to get a mini culinary tour of Europe, all in a 10km radius of Vancouver. Then hospitality started popping up and ready for visits from the media a few days before the Olympics. I enjoyed the conversations about food, food preparation, dining traditions and culture in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Italy, France and Russia. I loved learning about the special care and attention to air cured meats, sausage seasonings, cheese and potatoes. Alright, I’ll admit that the free food samplings were delicious perks.
What I did not expect was how much I enjoyed the journey through all the Provincial houses of Canada. The Ontario House, Northern House (representing Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut), Quebec House, Alberta House, Atlantic Canada House, Saskatchewan, BC Street, Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast all put on an amazing tourism experience, and more specifically a delicious culinary experience.
Canada’s Culinary Culture
I’ve come to a realization that Canada’s Culinary scene is World Class. Between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, we have the freshest selection of seafood possible. Our prairies produce a large quantity of grains, vegetables, fruits as well as a diverse selection of livestock and wildlife. Our metropolitan cities cater to people’s tastes from all over the world. Our chefs have gone around the globe and learned from the best chefs in the world in all different cuisines and styles of cooking. We’re exposed to so many styles of cooking since everyone’s background is so diverse. I’m actually so excited about the next few years in the Canadian Culinary scene as we evolve and show the world what Canadian Cuisine really is. Susur Lee mentioned this in an interview with YouCook a few months ago and I suppose I’m realizing it now – We have the best and freshest ingredients in Canada. Our people know what good quality is and restaurants and chefs are always pushing the bar to make even more creative dishes with the fresh ingredients.
Maybe I’m just high on Canada right now as I write this
…but it does bring a smile to my face and optimism that somehow YouCook.ca can play a role to facilitate this promotion of the Canadian Culinary Culture.
Stephan Brunt captures it pretty well in this video essay:
Between winning the most gold medals in the Winter Olympics, and seeing Canadian flags, gear, gloves, face paint everywhere I go, and people sharing stickers, pins, drinks – I am feeling very proud of my country right now.
I like how we can show our patriotism but are mindful that we’re not the centre of the world and the Olympics has really shown that. Several of the international houses and chefs mentioned record number of people visiting, sales and consumption of the food. Most of the international houses were set up mainly to host the athletes and people from that country plus expatriates. Nobody really expected the demand from local Canadians to line up for 1-4 hours to get into the Heineken House or the Switzerland House or the Saxony House. Canadians want to try cuisine from all over the world, we love learning from other cultures and everyone around us, we love trying new things, and we love traveling. This is a really cool attitude and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the world!
Manuel Salchli, Director of the House of Switzerland Canada 2010 said “There was a strong comradery between Canadian and Swiss fans. Nations joining together to celebrate sport and humanity is what the Olympic Games represents and it has been exemplified at the House of Switzerland Canada 2010 in Vancouver and Whistler.”
Hospitality House Numbers
Switzerland House reported:
- Over 60,000 guests
- “The Swiss also learned that Canadians are food lovers, with a record amount of fondue, raclette, and Lindt chocolate being consumed at the House of Switzerland Canada 2010.”
- 4 tonnes of Cheese from Switzerland consumed
Had to order another shipment of cheese half-way through the Games
- 2 tonnes of Lindt chocolate
Saxony House reported:
- 75% more people than expected (34,000 total)
- 11,000 sausages, 1000 steaks, 130kg of Venison
- 320 kegs of Wernesgrüner Beer
The flip side to all local Canadians wanting to see each of the houses and taste all the food, is that the hospitality houses could barely keep up with all the demand promptly.
The biggest complaint echoed throughout Vancouver online and offline were the Line Ups. The Atlantic House had multiple lineups and many people were in the wrong line up or lined up for hours to be told that there were no more tastings. The Heineken House would prioritize Dutch guests first before letting in any Canadians. The Quebec House ran out of Poutine within 30 minutes.
Locals and tourists alike probably spent the majority of their time in lineups during the Olympics. There were 1 hour – 5 hour lineups for tastings, tourism, free samples, concerts, clubs, restaurants, bars, skytrains, buses. For the Gold Medal Hockey game, people had to show up to the Pavilions or Bars at 8am for the game at noon.
There’s always the good and the bad. We are after all Canadian and pretty patient, as long as the free stuff or food at the end of the line is worth it. World, take note, the next time you have an event in Canada and offer food or free stuff, expect to accommodate all of us!
YouCook.ca by the numbers:
So YouCook did our best to write about our experiences with the food, the chefs and the host province or country involved in the hospitality. Here’s some statistics of our experience in February in Vancouver.
|Pavilions and Hospitality Houses visited:||23|
|Olympic Events Attended:||3|
|Number of Days of Fireworks Watching:||5|
|Number of Concerts Seen:||9|
|Number of Consecutive Days with at least 1 drink:||22|
|Number of Pictures Taken by Thu:||3147|
|YouCook.ca Staff during the Olympics:||10|
YouCook.ca Thank You
Many thanks to everyone who did helped me with Photography, Videography, Cooking, Proofreading, and Support in making the YouCook.ca idea viral around the world in 2010.
Special thanks to:
Melody Lei, Catherine Lam, Elaine Yip – YouCook Toronto
Kevin Chew – YouCook Vancouver
Irene Wijoyo – YouCook Victoria,
Glen Yi – Korea,
David Montgomery – Seattle,
Josefine Westberg – Sweden,
Tomoko Takami – Japan
Thanks to all the friendly people I met – all the chefs and organizers and media that I got to know. To Stephan Colbert for making us wake up early to watch the live tapings of your show! And for everyone in the City of Vancouver for making our olympic experience priceless!
Until next time…London 2012 and Sochi 2014!