Bread slices and stew in a pumpkin bowl on a festive fall platter.
Photo credit: Fruli Toronto, photo by Tony Lam

Ontario expands its reputation as a culinary hotspot with the MICHELIN Guide finding its way to Toronto

Guest blog by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport

In September 2022, Michelin released its first Toronto Guide, bringing global attention to the exciting culinary scene in the world’s most multicultural city.

“The diversity of the selection reflects the soul of this cosmopolitan city,” enthused Gwendal Poullennec, International director of the MICHELIN Guides. “With 27 cuisine types, from Japanese to Italian, Mexican to contemporary cuisine, there’s something to please every foodie here.”

“Toronto already was a multicultural place where people meet to enjoy architecture, arts and nature, and now it has become a world-class destination for gourmets too,” says Poullennec.

In total, 74 restaurants made the inaugural MICHELIN Toronto guide, including 13 starred, 17 Bib Gourmand, which recognizes “exceptionally good food at moderate prices,” and 44 recommended, demonstrating a wide range of cuisine and food-related experiences, all drawing on locally produced ingredients unique to Ontario.

Coming when it did—as the city and province, like jurisdictions worldwide, are recovering from the effects of COVID—it was a timely boost and pointed to the growing fusion of tourism and culinary tourism.

“Culinary tourism is about more than dining out,” says Rebecca Mackenzie, CEO of the Culinary Tourism Alliance (CTA). “It’s about offering visitors an experience to immerse themselves in the history, heritage and culture of a particular destination through its food and drink.”

In short, culinary tourism is a “taste of place” experience. And it’s becoming increasingly popular as more and more of today’s travellers demand an authentic, more connected tourism experience.

Ontario was early to recognize the importance of culinary tourism. In 2005, correctly predicting that culinary tourism would move from niche to major market status, the province introduced a 10-year Culinary Tourism Strategy and Action Plan and moved aggressively to implement it.

Visitors apple picking at an orchard.
Ontario is well positioned to be a leader in the culinary tourism sector, which is estimated to be worth US$1.8 billion by 2027.

The result was that Ontario became one of three worldwide leaders in culinary tourism readiness, according to the World Food Travel Association. And it remains a culinary “hotspot,” based on the level of culinary tourism activity in community, education, development and promotion.

Since then, Ontario has seen investment in culinary tourism grow as operators capitalize on the province’s rich and varied agriculture, viticulture (winegrowing) and aquaculture (farming in water) resources. And Ontario is primed for new investment in areas as varied as agritourism, specialty food and craft beer experiences, innovative non-alcoholic beverages incorporating local tastes, culinary tours and cooking schools that highlight regional offerings, and new food festivals and fine dining.

Woman sitting at a picnic bench with a glass of red wine, gazing at a field of sunflowers.
Culinary travellers—who spend 30% more a day on average than non-culinary travellers—also report that food and drink experiences make them more likely to return to a destination.

“We’re keen to attract entrepreneurs who understand and value the opportunities, are interested in celebrating what’s here and are eager to tap into the innovation and creativity in the province,” says Mackenzie. “And, of course, they have to be able to deliver a quality experience consistently.”

To help ensure investors succeed, the Culinary Tourism Alliance—tasked with advancing food tourism— works closely with the 13 regions across the province to help build and sustain their distinct identities and identify and develop new culinary tourism products and experiences unique to each of them.

The CTA also works with post-secondary institutions to develop culinary programs with a specific focus on culinary tourism.

Culinary students observing their instructor handling a flaming dish.
Colleges such as Centennial and George Brown offer courses specific to culinary tourism, helping to ensure a steady stream of industry-ready graduates knowledgeable and passionate about gastronomy.

Add to that a business-friendly government that understands the value of the culinary tourism industry—and has put in place funding and education programs to support it—and it’s no wonder investment is on the rise.

If you’re an entrepreneur in the culinary tourism sector and looking for a new opportunity, why not make Ontario your next destination.

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