Story by Janine Kennedy
Vacay.ca Food Travel Columnist
WOLFVILLE, NOVA SCOTIA — Anthony Bourdain can go anywhere he wants in the world. So it will come as a surprise that he is headed to a tiny Nova Scotia town with a population of only 4,250 people.
Emmy Award-winning Bourdain, who hosts Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN and has authored several best-selling books about life in professional kitchens and on the road, will open the November festival with one of his favourite films, Ang Lee’s “Eat Drink Man Woman.” Bourdain will take part in a Q&A after the film, which debuted in 1994, and end the evening with a book signing.
The first round of tickets for the event have already sold out but more will be available in September, Devour! founder and local chef Michael Howell assures.
“We’re waiting to make the announcement for the full program at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Then, the rest of the tickets will become available.”
Howell, who ran a successful restaurant in Wolfville before turning his attentions to developing the film festival, is delighted with the international attention Devour! has garnered in its four years of existence.
“Last year we got off to a really great start when The Hollywood Reporter published three separate pieces on the festival. They dubbed Wolfville ‘Canada’s Secret Foodie Destination.’ That really helped get the ball rolling,” says Howell, who was also a judge for this year’s Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Guide.
A small town in northwestern Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy, Wolfville is home to Acadia University. The town is surrounded by sprawling farmland and some of Canada’s finest wineries in the Annapolis Valley. Combine this with Wolfville’s warm and worldly residents and you begin to understand just what makes it such a thriving food destination.
Howell is hoping Wolfville’s ambiance will be enough to lure Bourdain back to Nova Scotia for a future episode of Parts Unknown. When he joined CNN, Bourdain’s first episode spotlighted Montreal and restaurateurs David McMillan and Frederic Morin of Joe Beef and Martin Picard of Au Pied de Cochon. Rumour is Bourdain has also agreed to film in Calgary for an upcoming episode of Parts Unknown, which will be entering its third season this fall.
“[Bourdain] is his own executive producer. He makes the final decision about where he films. We hope he comes back [after attending Devour!]. The chefs in Nova Scotia play outside the mainstream. We’ve chosen to live and work here because of the great quality of life,” Howell says. “This is what he’s all about — discovering unique global experiences. We hope if he sees this, he’ll come back.”
Although the festival’s program has not officially been launched, there are a few confirmed events. Howell and his partner, Lia Rinaldo, are excited to introduce Canadians to Spaniard Franc Aleu’s epic food film “El Somni.”
“This is a surreal film. It’s multi-sensorial, featuring Ferran Adria at El Cellar de can Roca in Spain,” Howell notes.
Aside from several film screenings, Devour! will also feature a three-day food-truck rally, a Nova Scotia Kitchen Party at Wolfville’s curling club, a cocktail event at local dive bar, The Anvil, and a gala dinner featuring the best of Nova Scotia’s culinary talent as well as a traditional “Order of Good Cheer.” More than 4,000 people attended the 2013 edition of the festival.
“Wolfville has always been known as a culinary epicentre. I would love for [Devour!] to become the Sundance of food film festivals,” Howell says during my interview with him.
As for Bourdain, the reasons for coming to Wolfville for Devour! were simple.
“He has wanted to be involved in a film festival for some time now. He’s only allowed for three public appearances this year outside his regular filming schedule, so we’re really pleased he’s chosen to come to Devour! I think timing was part of his decision as well. He felt we were close enough to New York City that he could pop over in between flights from New York to Madagascar.”
MORE ABOUT DEVOUR! FOOD AND FILM FEST
Dates: November 12-16, 2014
Location: Acadia Cinema Cooperative – Al Whittle Theatre, 450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS (see map below)
Tickets: Tickets will be available in early September after the official program has been launched. Tickets to the gala opening and reception cost $150. They sold out in less than 24 hours but more tickets will go on sale soon. Visit the Devour! website for details.