Story by Janine Kennedy
Vacay.ca Food Columnist
SYDNEY, CAPE BRETON ISLAND, NOVA SCOTIA — Right Some Good, pegged as “North America’s Original Pop-Up Food Festival,” takes place annually in mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. Each year, locally and internationally acclaimed chefs come together for collaborative dinners, friendly competitions and fun events to make use of the gorgeously fresh seafood, cheese, wine, meat and fruit found throughout the province.
Last month, after the event wrapped its fourth year, I had a chat with Right Some Good’s founder, Pearleen Mofford, to get her spin on how the festival has changed the way we think about food in Nova Scotia.
Vacay.ca: What was the original inspiration for Right Some Good?
Mofford: Right Some Good is about creating an environment of mentorship and collaboration. We take the world’s best chefs, pair them with a local chef and an aspiring apprentice chef and give them local ingredients to create menus we’ve never seen before in Nova Scotia. The best way to get better at what you do is by learning from the best and that’s what happens behind the scenes at Right Some Good.
Vacay.ca: You are very proud of your Cape Breton roots. Do you hope to lure other Nova Scotians who are abroad back home for future festivals?
Mofford: Cape Breton is the one place in the world that, when you leave, you leave a better, more relaxed person with memories you want to share with friends. The festival is now in its fourth year and it is definitely being recognized by Nova Scotians around the world. Each night at dinner, when I get to meet all the guests and hear where they’re from, it’s great to hear that people came home just to see what Right Some Good is all about! We continue to strive to bring people home to help boost the economic impact of the province.
Vacay.ca: Nova Scotia has so many talented chefs but few are well-known across Canada. Why do you think this is and how do you aim to give them national attention?
Mofford: We are fortunate to have tremendous culinary talent in Nova Scotia and it is great to see our restaurants popping up on national “must-try” lists (like the Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide). I think as Nova Scotians we are naturally humble and not great at “tooting our own horn.” We need to brag more and we need more opportunities to have our chefs work outside the province to show the calibre of talent here.
At Right Some Good we have an entire culinary brigade of local talent and we try to have international writers join us on the nightly foodie adventure so they can see the breadth of experience we have in Nova Scotia.
Vacay.ca: The East Coast has always been considered a foodie destination because of the plethora of fresh seafood. What other culinary experiences can visitors expect in mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton?
Mofford: My favourite thing to do is get in the car, drive and discover different farmers markets to try artisanal products and see what’s out there. You’ll see signs for church dinners across the province — they always have the best preserves. There are places where you’ll hear live music so you’ll go in and find a beautiful soup and tea biscuit, and now in smaller towns you’re finding restaurants that you would only expect to find in major city centres. It’s an exciting time for culinary experiences in Nova Scotia and our chefs are making culinary standards higher than ever before. It’s easy to do, too, because we’re blessed with some of the best ingredients in the world — from both land and sea.
Vacay.ca: This year’s festival was a great success in Halifax (in July) and now you’ve just wrapped up the September events in Cape Breton. What have been the highlights?
Mofford: Halifax was a natural place for us to expand this year, based on demand and as the starting point for most tourists who arrive. While planning, I hoped we’d get a good turnout, and then I was blown away to see over 20,000 people experience the Right Some Good Street Fair on Spring Garden Road — that was simply amazing. The community support for culinary endeavours in Nova Scotia is overwhelming and truly humbling.
Another highlight was working with the Royal Canadian Navy! To have the Navy’s Admiral support our Halifax event by hosting it on one of their ships, and then having him join us for dinner was a night I will never forget.
Really, just to put new ingredients from Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia into the hands of 17 international chefs is what Right Some Good is all about.
Vacay.ca: Is there a master plan for future festivals? You split up the Halifax/Cape Breton events for this year — is that something we’ll be seeing again?
Mofford: We’re working hard to grow and garner attention for Nova Scotia’s culinary output. The festival needs to expand and will continue to include Halifax going forward. We are hoping to continue to expose the rest of Canada to the unique ingredients and culinary talent here in Nova Scotia. You just never know where we’ll pop up next.
Vacay.ca: Will you include other areas of Nova Scotia for future festivals?
Mofford: Looking at other communities in Nova Scotia is something we are considering but at this point nothing is confirmed. There are some great ingredients available all around the province and bringing a pop-up dinner to a town helps to highlight and bring attention to those local products.
Vacay.ca: You bring in chefs from all over the world for Right Some Good. How have these partnerships developed and did you have chefs coming for a return trip this year?
Mofford: Four years ago it all started by making cold calls to the chefs. Now, the chefs who have come previously help recruit their peers; they’re wonderful ambassadors after they experience Right Some Good. We still do some cold calling when we see what a chef is doing in their community and how they’re committed to local, sustainable culinary practices.
It’s easier now for sure, as the events are well documented and the chefs see that they have full, creative control over the menu planning. They get to come play in the “culinary sand box.” We’ve brought some chefs back to do a dinner as well as compete in the Garland Canada Master Chef Face Off. This year, Top Chef Canada finalist Rich Francis came to compete and he’s staging the first Aboriginal dinner at Right Some Good in Membertou, Cape Breton.
Vacay.ca: Have you achieved the goals you originally set for this year’s festival and have you set any goals for the upcoming years?
Mofford: In four years we’ve covered a lot of ground and I’m proud of what our team has accomplished. In year one, we had 60 ingredients in our database. Now we have almost 900 unique, local ingredients for chefs to choose from when creating their menus.
We’ve increased the amount of local product purchased by chefs in Cape Breton and we’ve seen menus around the island change — the culinary bar has risen. The festival has contributed over $3 million in both direct and indirect economic benefits.
As we move forward with the festival, we want to find ways to continue to drive support for local ingredients. We want to make it easy to get our ingredients into the hands of international chefs when they return home to their restaurants. Right Some Good can help drive exports and we are working on how we can do more in the coming years.
Vacay.ca: Do you think this festival has changed people’s opinions of East Coast cuisine?
Mofford: I’d like to say yes but I guess I’m biased. I can say, through my own experience, as I spend time discovering new places and products around the region, I see a big difference in menu offerings. I am a huge foodie and I love that we have so many choices now when we go out to eat.