Editorial: Throwing Down the Gauntlet
April 2, 2008 By Jane Ayer
I’m writing this after three days at the CRFA show (put on by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association).
I’m writing this after three days at the CRFA show (put on by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association). Held in a new venue at the Direct Energy Place in Toronto, it combined two shows (Food & Beverage and Hostex) into one. It was a massive event, with a number of big name celebrity chefs to draw crowds, and that’s exactly what it did, with plenty of both exhibitors and visitors. As is always the case, the booths that garnered the most attention (aside, of course, from the ones giving away free alcohol) were the ones where something was going on. Chef demonstrations, product sampling, giveaways; you could tell which booths offered one of the above by the number of people clamouring to get close.
While our offer of magazine samples and the chance to purchase great industry publications and cookbooks always goes over well with trade show attendees, we got extra attention with Juan Hermosillo at our booth on the second day of the show. A native of Mexico, Hermosillo now represents Canada and Pizza Pizza as a master pizza thrower and spinner at competitions around the world. He also works with Canadian Pizza, our sister publication, from time to time, hence his presence at the show. When Hermosillo started tossing his pizza dough around, spinning it on the end of his finger like a basketball, throwing it from hand to hand, then quickly flipping his whole body into a one-handed handstand, his free hand still holding a spinning pizza, people stopped and people watched. Agog. Mouths hanging open. Cellphone cameras snapping.
The baking world may not have anything as acrobatic as Juan the pizza thrower to show off, but we do have a Team Canada. And that team is on display here, at Bakery Showcase, where many of you are likely reading this. For the first time ever at the show, the team will be strutting its stuff, demonstrating some of its unique products, talking about what it was like to train for the Louis Lesaffre Cup, and, more recently, what it was like to do demos at Europain in Paris.
More than support in the form of rah-rah-rah!, way to go guys, pat-on-the-back, the team needs financial support. It needs money. It’s not cheap to train for competitions like Louis Lesaffre and Le Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. It requires time and money, the majority of which the team members pulled from their own schedules and their own pockets.
Team USA, working with a reported budget of almost $150,000 (all of which is supplied by industry sponsors) first entered the Coupe du Monde in 1994. In 1996, it upset the French team with a first-place win in the Baguette and Specialty Breads category. Team USA followed that up three years later in 1999 with an even bigger upset: it took the title, and did the same thing in 2005, coming second in the 2002 event. These wins have done much for the baking industry in the USA, not the least of which has been boosting the image of the industry with frequent media appearances and making the baking world look a lot more interesting to the young people who will be its future.
Canada’s baking industry could garner the same kind of attention as the U.S. industry, could attract the same excitement as those booths at the CRFA show with the celebrity chefs, could generate the same excitement as a dexterous pizza spinner. Our bakers aren’t any less talented or skilled or gifted. They just haven’t been able to round up the right support. Are you up for the challenge?
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