Are You a Taster?

Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste is one of the biggest and most important food events of the year. In its 21-year history Toronto Taste has raised over $4 million, enough for 8 million meals. Yes, we know the $250 ticket price is out of reach for many people, even if half of it is tax deductible; and yes, we know that articles about swank expensive events like this can make some people feel bad because they can’t afford to attend. But Toronto Taste deserves to be written about because it does really fantastic work in helping to feed underprivileged people in our city. And from a food perspective, it deserves to be written about because, really, where the heck else are you going to get to eat food by 60 of Toronto’s top chefs?

Having attended a couple of Toronto Tastes now, I’m offering up a survival guide. How to get the most for that $250 ticket and have the best time possible. This takes some planning if you’re serious about it, which is why I’m offering my tips now, even though the event doesn’t take place until June 12th. You need to be planning, people!

What to wear:

  • First, think waistbands. Everything centres on the waistband and its expandability over the course of the evening. You will be eating a lot of food. This is not the place to model your fancy Steampunk-styled corset.
  • Beyond waistbands, you’ll need pockets. To stuff used napkins, or a camera. Ladies might have handbags, but remember, they take up a hand that could be used to hold food and drink – something that swings in the crook of your elbow or can be worn on the shoulder or across the chest leaves both hands free. Writerly types also have pen and notepad or voice recorder for doing interviews/taking notes. I still think I need to design and patent a “food event toolbelt” for times like these.
  • This year may not be the case, but usually it’s hot for Toronto Taste. The whole thing is tented or indoors now, so the weather is less of an issue, but dressing for the weather is imperative. Something Scotch-Guarded for the inevitable spill would also be useful.
  • Footwear-wise, remember that there is very little seating, you’re going to be standing for a few hours. Nothing tastes good if you’re in agony.
  • And finally, dress up, already. It’s not a sequined ballgown kind of deal, but a pretty dress for the dames and a shirt and jacket for the guys is fairly standard. Think garden party and you’ll have it about right.

Once you get there:

  • Arrive early, there’s always a line to get in.
  • The booths by the door run out of food first, but do try to spread out so things are not too glomped. There are plenty of chefs in the middle of the tent with good food too.
  • Even with the above-mentioned stretchy pants, it’s pretty much impossible to eat one of everything (I did mention 60 chefs, right?). Greg and I tend to share items so we can try more dishes without exploding, but also if one of us doesn’t like something, there’s someone to finish it so it doesn’t go to waste.
  • I shouldn’t even have to say this, but – it’s an event to help the hungry. Taking a bite out of something and then tossing it is really not cool. Also, stop when you’re full, and seriously, no sneaking stuff out in your purse for later.
  • There are hundreds of volunteers eager to take your dirty plate or glass. This is easier than carrying a wine glass around. Plus, I think the one who collects the most wins a prize or gets carried around on everyone else’s shoulders.
  • Pace yourself – just when you think you’re done, you’ll realize that there are more chefs inside.
  • Bring more cash and a chequebook. Volunteers will also want to sell you raffle tickets, and there’s a whole pile of auctions where you can win everything including wine, dinners, BBQs, trips (dinner at Michael Smith’s house, yo!) and even a car.
  • Chat with the chefs, but don’t monopolize them – get your grub and move it along so others have a chance too. We all want to chat with Scott Conant, Roger Mooking, Andrea Nicholson, Marc Thuet and the others.
  • Tweet it! Last year, attendees used hashtag #TorontoTaste to talk about their favourite dishes and comments were projected onto the wall inside the ROM.

Most importantly, remember why you’re there. Because Second Harvest depends on monies raised at Toronto Taste to help fund their various food recovery programs and feed hungry people across the city.

Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste takes place Sunday June 12th at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park). Tickets are $250 per person and can be purchased online.