Publisher dishes on global food scene
Report by Adrian Brijbassi
Taste&Travel publisher Janet Boileau has found a niche in the tough magazine world. Her quarterly publication, which is distributed in Air Canada lounges and Chapters bookstores, has rapidly grown and she is expanding with an Asian edition. Headquartered in Ottawa, Taste&Travel features stories from around the world that focus on culinary experiences. It’s a beautiful product, with breathtaking photographs and outstanding writing from experienced contributors.
“Many people thought I was crazy to launch Taste&Travel as a print magazine when everyone else was moving to digital platforms, but instead of trying to elbow my way into the crowded digital market I went around it,” Boileau said in a recent Globe & Mail article in which she was quoted as an industry expert. “I thought that the blogosphere would reach a saturation point, and there would be a backlash, which would increase interest in a print magazine. Turns out I was right.”
Question: How did you get the idea for Taste&Travel?
Janet Boileau: Global food culture fascinates me and I love to travel. When Gourmet magazine closed in the US in 2009 we lost one of the few magazines that offered really good food and travel writing. Like many Gourmet readers, I was shocked and disappointed. As a publisher, I also saw this as an opportunity to create a new magazine devoted to culinary travel. I wanted Taste&Travel to be educational as well as entertaining, to be a magazine that people would actually read and pass around, not just flip through and toss in the garbage. I also suspected that there would eventually be a backlash to the saturation of the blogosphere and that some people would want to return to the great visuals and more relaxed reading experience that a print magazine offers.
Q: Culinary travel is a major growth market in the tourism industry. Why do you think that is?
JB: Even a single generation ago, the majority of women did not go out to work and prepared three meals a day for their families. Now most of us work and have little time to cook and the skills that used to be passed down from mother to daughter or son are being lost. So we engage with food differently; we eat out, watch chefs on TV, visit farmers’ markets, read food blogs and go on food-related vacations. Culinary travel is the fastest-growing sector in special interest tourism. Countries that rely on tourism as a source of income are aware of this, which is why you will find more and more destinations developing food trails, agritourism attractions, culinary tours, cooking classes and the like as part of their product.
Q: What makes a good culinary travel story?
JB: To me the best culinary travel story is one that makes the connection between food and culture. Food connects people to their place, their history and their traditions. A good culinary travel writer sees cultural difference as something to be celebrated, not criticized, laughed at, or recoiled from. Our tagline “Expand Your Culinary Horizons” is not just about being open to trying new foods, it’s about appreciating the beautiful and tasty diversity of our global village.
Q: Where are your favourite food cities and why?
JB: Singapore for great, cheap hawker food and incredibly glamorous high-end dining. Hong Kong for dim sum and the world’s most breathtaking cityscape at night. Merida for fabulous Spanish colonial architecture and the unique cuisine of the Yucatan. Goa for fish curry, Portuguese sausages and gorgeous beaches. Rome for espresso bars, Tokyo for sushi and Lima for ceviche. Montreal for Quebec cheeses, foie gras and being able to buy bir and vin at a corner store.
Q: On the international scene, Canada doesn’t get mentioned a lot as a destination with great food options. Do you think we are being overlooked or is the global perception of our nation’s cuisine an accurate one?
JB: Don’t get me started on this one! Canada is a world-class culinary tourism destination. You have great landscapes, some of the best ingredients in the world and hugely talented chefs. If there is a global perception of Canadian cuisine as being anything less than brilliant, it’s probably due to the fact that Canadians don’t toot their own horns very much. Which is why every issue of Taste&Travel has pages dedicated to Canadian stories and why two of Canada’s most respected food writers are on our Editorial Board.
Q: You recently dined at Atelier in Ottawa for the first time. That’s been one of the favourite restaurants among Vacay.ca readers and Top 50 Restaurants in Canada judges. What were your impressions?
JB: Considering how fabulous this place is, dining there was a surprisingly relaxed experience. Marc Lepine is a genius in the kitchen but he and his staff are totally unpretentious. I went with Anne DesBrisay, who was the Ottawa Citizen’s restaurant critic for more than 20 years and knows the Capital’s food scene better than anyone. Thirteen perfectly proportioned tasting courses and nine wine pairings later, we were delirious with pleasure. And I was really surprised by the bill … elsewhere in the world that kind of superb dining experience would probably have cost twice as much.
JB: I do loooove octopus. I haven’t eaten a lot of it in Canada so I can’t say if the 24-hour braised version I had at LIFT in Vancouver is the best in the country but it sure was good! Outside Canada, the best I’ve had was in the Azores with my friend David Leite (founder of the award-winning food blog Leite’s Culinaria), where it is cooked Portuguese-style in the oven with potatoes. You can buy an excellent octopus salad by the pound at the Fish Market in Auckland, New Zealand and I am a sucker (pardon the pun) for tako-yaki, the little grilled octopus balls sold by street vendors in Japan. (Where, by the way, you can also get squid on a stick.)
Q: Where can readers find Taste&Travel and what’s in the latest issue?
JB: Taste&Travel is sold in Chapters stores throughout Canada. It’s also available free in the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounges worldwide, although it tends to disappear from there pretty fast! The easiest way to get the print edition is to subscribe via our website. It’s only $25 a year and the magazine is delivered to your door. The digital editions are available through zinio.com, Apple Newsstand and Google Play for Android users. We are also especially proud of the Taste&Travel app available through the App Store for Apple devices.
The Fall issue has a great compendium feature about the food scene in Melbourne, Australia, a yoga trek (with chilies!) in Bhutan, a road trip down Highway 1 in California and a feature on Iceland. And that’s just for starters. There’s also the usual mix of recipes, cookbook reviews, travellers’ reports from the road, news updates and culinary guides to major Canadian cities. Enjoy!