The Canadian “culinary activist” who created Food Day Canada has been named as the University of Guelph’s honorary food ambassador — a first for the Ontario school and, it’s believed, the first such appointment in the world.
Anita Stewart, a Kitchener-based food columnist and broadcaster who also founded the food professionals’ group Cuisine Canada, was named Wednesday to a two-year term as Guelph’s first food laureate.
“My goal is to continue to explore how (the university) has set our national and international tables with both talent and ingredients,” she said in a university release.
“And while I’m at it, I intend to recognize some very real culinary heroes whom all of Canada can celebrate.”
“This historic appointment is a significant step towards strengthening U of G’s reputation as ‘Canada’s food university,’” university president Alastair Summerlee said in the same release.
“We are known internationally as the place for food research, teaching and technology, but our contributions to the culinary life of Canada need to be more widely touted. Having a food laureate will allow the university to engage people across the country and strengthen our profile and support.”
Stewart’s credentials for the job would be difficult to dispute. Among other distinctions, she’s the first Canadian to have earned a master of arts in gastronomy and was named to the Order of Canada in 2012 for her work in promoting domestic foods.
She has also written or cowritten 14 books on Canadian foods and wines, most recently Anita Stewart’s Canada in 2008.
Stewart appears regularly as a food columnist on CBC Radio, and has been consulted on Ontario’s culinary tourism strategy, working “frequently” with the federal ag department, Canadian Tourism Commission and Ontario’s provincial ag and tourism ministries.
Food Day Canada has morphed into a national event from Stewart’s “World’s Longest Barbecue” in 2003, an event meant to support Canadian livestock producers in the wake of the discovery that year of Canada’s first domestic case of BSE.
At Guelph, Stewart has already helped the university create a “food inventory” and prepared the special menu for the 125th anniversary of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) in 1999.
She also helped the school launch its Good Food Innovation Awards program in 2010 to recognize restaurants showing “culinary creativity with local ingredients.” Guelph’s College of Management and Economics (CME) awarded Stewart an honorary doctorate in 2011.
During her term as food laureate, Stewart is to report to the deans of both OAC and CME, and is expected to further promote Guelph’s “culinary contributions to Canada.”
The food laureate will be tasked with “refining” the school’s food inventory, developing public awareness campaigns, organizing events and “strengthening connections between producers and consumers.”