Bringing about positive change and transformation through food is what Eric does best. Not only is he a leading consultant and strategist on culinary tourism, but he is also the only individual on the globe who combines expert chef qualities with an MBA in Finance and international experience in over 100 countries. Name a country and he has worked there, with projects as far-flung as the Yukon, Antarctica and Fiji.
He is Canada’s cuisine ambassador and encourages artisan food companies, farmers, fishers and foragers. Enthusiastic about the fusion of chefs and influencers he is a judge for enRoute Canada’s Best New Restaurants and Canada’s 100 Best Restaurant Awards. A co-author of three books, he was the recipient of the Mayor of Vancouver’s Art Award for Culinary Arts, was named as one of Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 Under 40 Business People and one of Western Living Magazine’s Top 40 Foodies Under 40.
Profoundly shaping the future of food and building brands, Eric has built a number of companies including ESP Culinary Consulting; Edible Canada Bistro, retail shop and culinary travel company; and Sea to Sky Seasonings, with its line of Amola sea salts. The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach and it certainly is with Eric.
What are you hoping could ignite enthusiasm on what you’re going to speak about
Africa has the most untapped potential of any culinary destination in the world! With the variety and abundance of cultural and historical narratives around the cuisine and people, I look forward to sharing global inspiration and ideas on how Africa can best unlock this potential.
What have you missed with regard to face-to-face contact in the events speaking space?
I think the most valuable part of any event is the social connection, and that is so difficult to do on Zoom. I tend to come alive in speeches when we get to have more of an engaging conversation, rather than just having me talk at an audience. The Q&A session of any speaking engagement is where we get a chance to really explore the audience’s challenges and needs.
How did you come to do what you do? Tell us a bit about your career advancement
So many people ask me what I do. The quick answer is that I eat, I drink and I travel (a lot!). I have been in the hospitality industry since I was 12 years old, mostly focused on the entrepreneurial side—I opened my first business at 17 years old, and have now owned more than 6 businesses.
I am a chef by training with an MBA in finance, and I love spreadsheets as much as I love recipes. After 15 years’ operating my culinary travel company, bistro and artisanal food retail shop, I found I was especially drawn to the consulting work I was doing, using my expertise to help public and private sector F&B businesses define their cuisines, build their brands and shape the future of food in their regions.
So, I made the transition to focusing on that full time. Prior to Covid I travelled up to 275 days a year, and I love connecting with people and places. I have written or contributed to a number of books, travelled to all 7 continents and over 100 countries, and have literally worked from pole to pole. I want to share my global perspectives and best practices with the audience and create a sense of urgency and pride in Africa’s local cuisines.
Based on your five senses, what are you looking forward to most at the show this year?
- See: Getting back to South Africa to explore the incredible Garden Route and the Franschhoek Valley, which are etched in my memory from my last trip there in 2000.
- Taste: The Indigenous foods of Africa’s many regions. As this trip will include stops in both South Africa and Ghana, I look forward to being immersed in new flavours.
- Feel: The connection of the culture and the people. It is the connection with people that always resonates most about a destination.
- Hear: I want to hear from the people: the suppliers, the chefs, the vintners, the hoteliers, the destination marketing organizations. I want to know their stories and learn about the unique selling propositions of each region.
- Smell: The ocean, the vineyards, food cooking over an open flame.
What makes Africa unique?
The incredible regional variations in culture, heritage, climate, adventures and stories. And as I said above, the fact that there’s such a lack of global understanding of this vast continent.
What is the first thing you will do once you set foot in Cape Town?
As you might expect, it will involve eating and drinking! My first stop is always the local markets to immerse myself in the food and culture.
Looking back at past events that you have been to, what business connection/relationship stands out that made it truly worthwhile?
Oh wow—that is so hard! I always pride myself on taking so much away from each event I attend. I would have to say that the UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism (held in a different country every year) is one event I always look forward to. It is generally attended by delegates from over 100 countries and the possibilities for global connections are second to none.
To be honest, it is the connection I made there with Chef Binta that was one of the reasons I am coming to ATW to speak. She has inspired me to use my skills and knowledge to help put Africa on the global culinary map.
Tell us a story about a past event where something truly memorable happened (funny or serious).
In 2018, I created an event where I chartered a private 737 jet and took 60 guests on a trip across the Canadian Arctic along with some of the best chefs and mixologists in Canada. We explored the Canadian North from west to east over 9 days, stopping basically anywhere we could land a jet of that size. One of the dinners we cooked in Iqaluit was designed to be served outside on a riverbank, but the weather was not cooperating—it was -15ºC outside (in the Arctic summer)! But we went ahead and did it anyway.
We bundled all of the guests up, and collected as many pallets as we could to burn the largest fires possible, since there are no trees that far north. It was by far the highlight of our trip and one of the most memorable experiences of my life! Sharing food cooked over fire with 60 adventurers who braved the cold, all in one of the most breathtaking places on the planet.
There are videos about the experience here and here.
Another memorable story was a trip to Antarctica. I was hired to curate and audit menus on board an expedition ship, but we hit a small hurricane en route, and had 40 foot waves for 4 days. Everyone on board basically just ate crackers and lay in bed! Not much of a culinary experience for those 4 days.
Find me at WTM Africa:
Topic: Bridging cultures and building communities through food: Opportunities in Africa
Date: 11 April 2022, 13:30-14:15
Stage: Spotlight Stage