A few months ago, I had the opportunity to participate at the Slow Motion Food Film Festival in Wolfville. While there I had the chance to meet Bobby Grégoire, a self-declared “gastronomy specialist” who does everything from podcasting to events on everything from culinary history & terroir to running Slow Food Montréal. I had the chance to interview him via email about his work, his interests, and the importance of terroir.
Image via Bobby Grégoire.com
Tell me who you are, what you do and why.
First, I am passionate about food culture and heritage. I use to work as a caterer that did period food interpretation from 4th century Roman to 19th century Canadian but I hanged my apron in late 2008. Today, I work as a gastronomy specialist that offers consulting services on food heritage, culinary tourism and terroir products. My job is mainly to work with producers, tourism boards and institutions to create local marketing and development strategies for communities based on their specialty food products ands food culture.
I do what I do because I love it and mainly am able to work on different projects and issues that interest me in life. When you do what you like, it does not seem as working.
Where does your love and appreciation of food come from?
That’s a good question, I’m not sure. I loved to watch my grandmother cooking when I was younger. But, I think, it’s mainly the taste and diversity that bring my love for food alive. Food is a celebration and a pleasure that we experience 3 times a day. But food is also culture, an expression of ours in relation to the environment, ours friends, society and everything that constitute our society and life.
What is a gastronomy specialist?
Basically, I am a food consultant, through media interviews, conferences and collaborations. I was designated as a Gastronomy specialist because I always include the broader picture of gastronomy from the field to the plate. Since it suited the media interviews and been used by journalist to describe me, I decided to use the title myself since then.
How did you become interested in gastronomy, specifically historical accounts and recipes thereof?
I always loved to cook and try new recipes and create a few of my own over time. As for heritage food, I began to get more interested when I was doing historical reenactment. I was always disappointed by the fact that we put so much efforts in reproducing goods and clothes but never put enough attention to the food we where eating during the reenactment events. So I began to do research about foods and recipes that suited our context and made banquets and food from scratch to the best interpretations I could. Over time, other reenactment associations asked for my cooking services and it’s how I begun to caterer for historical institutions and private groups.
It lasted 7 years until the end of 2008 when I decided to close my caterer service, to take a break. But in theses seven years I learned a lot about the producer’s reality and the marketing traps …
What does “slow food” mean to you?
I discovered the Slow Food movement around 2003-2004 but got to really learn more about it in 2007. For me, Slow Food is an organisation that fosters a similar vision about food and culture as I tried to apply in my caterer service in the previous years. Basically I joined Slow Food to be able to continue to promote the philosophy I was following in the past and promote it.
I got involved in 2008 to get to meet other peoples and meet with new professional contacts but also, I made new friends and where able to communicate my passion of food.
Why is terroir so important to you?
Because terroir is the result of nature and human culture working together to create unique foods that incarnate literally a culture and a land. It’s also important because terroir products are with added value and give more opportunity to farmers to earn an honest living that also bring a regional sense of pride. Terroir can’t exist in large-scale industrial operation, it preserves and creates specific know how’s and knowledge about a region and ensure strong small communities that preserve biodiversity as well as cultural identity.
Without terroir, culinary tourism would be almost impossible and a lot of small communities would have perished, in Europe as well as here in North America.