What is Canadian cuisine? Edible Canada, the nation’s largest culinary tourism company, is devoted to answering that question for locals as well as national and international tourists. Centrally located in the prime tourist destination of Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia, Edible Canada was founded in 2005 by company President Eric Pateman, and began as Edible Vancouver.
Pateman has been involved in the restaurant business since he was just 12 years old, and his idea to start the company in 2005 sprang from a lifelong passion for eating and travelling. This passion has brought him to all corners of the globe, including Europe and Africa, where he has tasted a wide variety of national cuisines. Pateman’s company was originally focused on local foods, and offered guided food tours of Granville Island, along with whiskey dinners and kayaking trips. However, after a few years he began bringing in chefs from around British Columbia in a temporary kitchen to showcase different types of foods a few times a week. Edible Vancouver blossomed into Edible British Columbia, and eventually Edible Canada, as Pateman’s vision grew. The dynamic company now offers guided food tours, retail stores and a restaurant that hosts private events, not to mention international cooking displays showcasing Canadian cuisine to the world.
A comprehensive Canadian cuisine company
In Edible Canada’s headquarters on Granville Island, there is a restaurant that specializes primarily in locally sourced, Canadian cuisine, with a 300 square-foot retail food store inside of the restaurant. Many of the store products are used in dishes served by the restaurant. There is also a demo kitchen built into the mid-level, where Pateman enjoys bringing in guest chefs to showcase their talents to dinner guests.
In partnership with Vancouver Foodie Tours, on Edible’s food tours, customers can expect to be guided to parts of the city including the adjacent Granville Island Public Market. These close-knit tours allow a maximum of 15 guests, allowing for a more intimate—although varied—food sampling experience. As Canada is a diverse country, tourists should be ready to taste a variety of cuisines.
“We touch on all of the nationalities that represent Canada. Some of the best Indian, Thai and Japanese restaurants are as Canadian as we are, because they are buying everything local and celebrating farmers, fish mongers, beverage producers and more. They’re doing it with an ethnic twist, and it’s all of that ethnicity that truly makes Canada such a special and cool place to live.
“If you asked a hundred people today what Canadian food is, you’d get a hundred different answers.
We’re working on helping Canadians identify what Canadian food is internally, so that we can market our country internationally as a food destination,” Pateman elaborates.
Interestingly, although Granville Island is the second-most visited tourist destination in Canada after Niagara Falls, the tours usually have approximately 60% locals; people from both near and far come to get a taste of true Canadian food.
Telling a story through food
Edible Canada is able to feature many small and up-and-coming independent farmers or food producers through their retail store and restaurant. They work with farmers, brewers, artisan food producers, and tell the story around their products to the end-users, the food tourists. Their 100% Canadian beverage program ensures that any drink you order will be a Canadian brew, and they have adopted a 70-20-10 model for their other food products: 70% locally sourced, 20% national, and 10% international. Eating with Edible Canada guarantees an authentic Canadian experience.
“We’re storytellers,”Pateman states. “We represent over 300 Canadian food artisans between our bistro and retail stores.”
In addition to their store on Granville Island, Vancouver, the company also operates in-house artisan shops, curating a very small area of their store with the best Canadian food products branded under Edible Canada. One is located in the stunning wine region of the Okanagan Valley, in partnership with Road 13 Vineyards. The scenic Valley is known for its dry, sunny climate, fruit orchards and vineyards.
Pateman selected 100% Canadian products to complement their wines. The other “store-within-a-store” is in Tofino, British Columbia, and is a partnership with Tofino Sea Kayaking. Tofino is a coastal district and a popular tourist destination for whale watchers and fishermen. The store features food products, home wares and cookbooks.
In an effort to reach more and more Canadians with incredible food stories, Edible Canada is quickly expanding. There are five additional retail locations set to open before the summer, all under the same in-house concept. Edible Canada is continuing to partner with existing businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants, lifestyle stores and cooking schools nationwide.
A holistic business approach
Edible Canada operates under a principle of responsibility in all of their business ventures, whether it is through their commitment to sustainability, their superb customer service or their interactions with stakeholders.
The company is dedicated to sustainability, not only through its local sourcing practices, but also through providing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in the restaurant, free to use for their customers. It is often extremely difficult to find parking in Granville Island in general, so owners of EVS get to plug in at a prime parking spot just outsidethe restaurant’s patio. With fuel prices on the rise once more, many restaurant visitors have made use of the stations.
Edible Canada further strives to accommodate their customers through their restaurant menu, which is 90% gluten free. This includes fish and chips, other deep-fried foods and breads. The company prioritizes offering healthy options without compromising the taste of the cuisine. Moreover, the menu always features a vegetarian or vegan option.
Edible Canada also prioritizes employee engagement and development. Many of their staff have been with the company since day one. This is a rarity in the food business, which is known for its high employee turnover. To increase staff retention, the company is committed to hiring the best people, and offering them substantial internal opportunities for learning and growth. The company has a fulltime staff member who focuses on sourcing the best products from food artisans to ensure that no local talent will remain undiscovered, as Pateman recognizes that the privilege of telling these stories is what allows Edible Canada to be who they are.
Edible Canada is involved with other organizations in the tourism industry, and also nurtures their relationships with the Canadian Tourism Commission, Tourism Vancouver and Tourism British Columbia.
“We’ve been very fortunate to promote Canadian food and our brand on the world stage through those organizations, and that certainly solidified our spot as the leader in Canadian food in the country,” says Pateman.
Pateman has big plans in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary, coming up in 2017. He intends to engage individuals and chefs through restaurant and retail channels including social media campaigns to help define what constitutes Canadian food. Pateman plans to hone this information to start a non-profit division to market Canadian food on an international level. Edible Canada launched a coast-to-coast Canadian dinner series earlier this year called the Coast to Coast Dinner series, inviting chefs from all provinces to tell their stories and share their dishes. Over the years, Pateman would like to grow the series for Canada’s upcoming monumental anniversary. As the project grows, Edible Canada will be able to bring people and cooks from around the country together to highlight their food experiences to the rest of the world.
Within the next two months, Edible Canada is also looking into the possibility of setting up a restaurant and retail store in Japan in partnership with the Canadian government and a Japanese company. This venture would also be part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada, a great way to honour Canada’s multicultural roots in one of the world’s top international markets.
“Our goal is to create a Canadian food community that has people to tell the story about what Canadian food is, and sell it on the national and world stage. We want to be at the centre of that,” Pateman concludes.