Meet Arlene Stein, Founder of The Terroir Symposium

Toronto’s popular Terroir event brings together innovative and creative influencers from the field of hospitality, including chefs, food and beverage experts, writers and business leaders. We sat down with Arlene Stein, the Founder of Terroir Symposium to get her insight on this year’s event:

  • How did you get the idea to start Terroir Symposium that launched 10 years ago?

I wanted to create a forum to bring the hospitality and food community together. There was a large and diverse network of people in the industry in Toronto, and a big opportunity to create an educational program and a way to connect the industry for an annual gathering.

I started the program when I was working s Event and Food Program Director at the University of Toronto. This allowed my the space to create a program to bring the industry to our space and curate a day of talks and workshops, while at the same time promoting the spaces and events we held there.  It was mutually beneficial.

  • This year’s theme is Celebrating Canadian Gastronomy. What is your take on the current status/trends of the food, hospitality and restaurant industry in Canada? Especially that you have experienced on a global platform.

There is a uniqueness around Canada gastronomy in that it’s a blend of everything. We struggle to create a singular identity for our country, but what we should be celebrating is the richness of our diversity – culturally and geographically. This diversity is our uniqueness and also our strength. I am currently in Berlin, Germany, and I always get asked about Canada. I always respond by saying how diverse a country we are how that creates a great environment for a successful hospitality industry.

  • The event speakers are a mix of food influencers, chefs and media personnel. How do you see the connection developing between all those parts of the industry?

The main focal point of the Terroir Symposium is to bring people from all aspect of the industry together. Evidenced by our logo that is a metaphor for every person in the industry and how they are all connected. They are all critical ingredients and essential parts of the puzzle. From farmers to artisans to the suppliers. It is a holistic industry that supports itself by creating strong and dynamic communities. We curate the Terroir Symposium to address topics and conversation to stretch across all sectors of the hospitality industry from producers and products, chefs, artisans, sommeliers, wine grower, marketing, media nd public relations to students and educators. Ever delegate should find something that relates to their contribution to the industry.

  • What do you believe are the biggest success factors to a restaurant partnership in a very well connected food landscape across social and digital media?

Community building is the biggest strength for a business in this industry. Social and digital media help to create a community that build, supports, and provides feedback around the clock. The support can come from those who have already established themselves and went through the rigorous processes from learning the basics, recruitment, knowing who the major players and competitors, to managing the external media and PR – all those aspects lend themselves to a successful venture. That is why the ‘lone wolf’ projects struggle to succeed, because you need champions around you.

Toronto is considered an international food destination.  We built this reputation through our strength in numbers.  Visitors to Toronto would be hard pressed to come if there were only a few good restaurants and food destinations to visit.  The strength of the community  is have a bigger voice and a wide range of clulinary and beverage acitivites – we have a huge craft beer and cider community, we have a world class wine growing region alongside amazing, sustainable farmers and artisans – they all compliment our world class restaurant community. We become our own best allies to tell that story to the world and other cities in the world see success when they also follow the patterns of strong community.

  • The symposium is a chance for the industry professionals to connect on more than just typical updates, but rather deep impactful & broader implications. What do you see this year’s event producing in terms of bigger picture ideas for Canadian Gastronomy?

First and foremost, making connections between all industry professionals from as many as possible from Canada is the most important goal of the symposium. Networking is a critical element that helps drive the industry forward. Hence why the speakers selected come from across the country with very diverse backgrounds.

Also, curating content that reflects the diversity to create a Canadian gastronomic mosaic by focusing on issues that dig deep.

We want to celebrate indigenous food and cuisine and First Nations contribution to our culinary landscape.  Without their support the French and the English settlers would never have survived. We have Marcel Shepert of River Select Salmon that will share with us a creation story and the importance of Salmon the viability of West Coast communities.  We are also going to tackle the seal hunt and migrant workers – two very important issues for the hospitality communicate to be able to advocate for as they are the foundations of our food systems.

  • How do you see the Terroir Symposium evolving to in the future

The events have been growing immensely over the years. This year we focused on creating concurrent conversations, exchange and intimacy between the attendees. Our aim for next year is to be more practical.  People want to be more hands on and involved in providing actual experiences that help facilitate and drive the industry forward.


Find out more about Terroir Symposium here.

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