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Are you going to Scarborough Fare? U of T hosts international food conference

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to meet and talk about research with the top food scholars in the world”

Photo of students pealing potatoes

More than 500 international food scholars and participants hungry for knowledge about global and local food issues are gathering at the University of Toronto Scarborough for a four-day conference

Hosted by U of T Scarborough and the Culinaria Research Centre, the conference explores the changing nature of food production, distribution and consumption by focusing on how people, foods as well as culinary and agricultural knowledge move across cultural and national borders. 

“We are located in one of the most diverse communities in the world and that diversity is reflected in the wide array of restaurants, food shops, cafes, take-out eateries, urban farms and businesses,” says Professor Dan Bender, director of Culinaria.  

A key theme of the conference is the development of cities and their food marketplaces where new and old migrant communities, entrepreneurs and an emerging migrant-origin middle class have settled in suburbs like Scarborough rather than older downtown districts. 

“There’s a real focus on the influence of migrant communities on local food throughout the conference says Professor Jeffrey Pilcher (pictured below), who helped organized the conference. “And Scarborough’s diverse communities have much to teach us.” 

The conference includes local food tours, art exhibitions in the Doris McCarthy Gallery, local field trips, panel discussions, lectures, exhibitions and even live cooking sessions in the Culinaria test kitchen. 

The local food tours will feature four distinct culinary zones in Scarborough and highlight the unique character of each area’s ethnic cuisine. One zone, located in the Milliken neighbourhood of Scarborough is near the Silver Star Plaza, which is home to the largest concentration of Chinese restaurants in North America. But, as Bender notes, the four zones represent a wide cross-section of distinct cultural and fusion styles of cuisine. 

“Many of these restaurants are in strip malls and small plazas. The owners often live nearby and cook for regulars who are intimately familiar with the menus rather than ‘culinary adventurers’ or ‘foodies,’” he says. 

“Eating in Scarborough is a cultural experience that is rooted in the history and heritage of all the communities who migrated here. It’s quite unique.”

The conference is truly international; all continents with the exception of Antarctica will be represented by participants, notes Pilcher. 

Culinaria also launched a mobile app called SALT (Scarborough, A Little Taste) to coincide with the opening of the conference. The app, which was created in collaboration with U of T Scarborough’s entrepreneurship centre, The Hub, offers an introduction to notable cuisines in Scarborough by focusing on small, vibrant restaurants that offer authentic dishes from around the world. 

U of T Scarborough students have also prepared a recipe book Scarborough Fare: Our Many Marvelous Kitchens to commemorate the conference. The cookbook captures the students own unique familial, migratory and cultural stories through a variety of dishes.   

Katie Konstantopoulos, a fourth-year sociology, English and history student, is one of more than 30 U of T undergraduates who helped with planning and organizing the conference. In addition to helping prepare the first draft of the recipe book and her work on developing SALT, she will help with one of the food tours and also present her research on labour in diasporic kitchens.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to meet and talk about research with the top food scholars in the world,” she says.

“As a student with a passion for food studies, the most rewarding part is that fellow undergraduates have an opportunity to get involved through volunteering and presentations.” 

Scarborough Fare takes place June 22 to June 25.

See more information about Scarborough Fare

June 23, 2016