One of the highlights of my year are the WHERE to Dine Awards. They were handed out this week at a superb party at Boulevard Vancouver, hosted by WHERE, and emceed by the inimitable Fred Lee. As Food & Wine editor, I get to hand out a few too.
Each year as we make these presentations, it reminds me what an honour it is to be involved with such an inspiring community of chefs, restaurateurs, servers and concierges, as well as so many other other hospitality professionals.
What a lot of people don’t always realize about the WHERE to Dine Awards is that they are unique. They really are different from any other awards program—of which there’re are several—in that most are primarily determined by people from outside.
The WHERE to Dine Awards specifically celebrate those who excel at the visitor experience—which is so fundamental and vital to the ongoing success of Vancouver as a dynamic tourism destination.
It’s gratifying to look back to the awards’ genesis (they’ll turn 20 next year) and think about what was here then, compared to now; and chart the progress made in the last two decades.
For one thing, there was no Dine Out Vancouver, yet, which meant that there were essentially two busy seasons: “summer”—whenever the rain stopped in June and patios opened, through September—and “the holiday season”, say mid November through Jan 1. Once New Year’s was done, so were many staff. There were layoffs and few re-hires until late spring. Dine Out not only changed that but it spawned more than a few flattering imitations, which have also helped bolster restaurant fortunes.
Today’s passion for ingredients, and our desire to know from where they come, was still pretty much in its infancy. Aside from pioneers like John Bishop (and Janice Lotzkar), there was little to hint of the boom in ‘regional-seasonal’ that was about to happen. And we were all pretty well oblivious to the imminent crisis in our oceans, as Rob Clark and Ocean Wise, and Frank Pabst and others hadn’t yet got going.
The BC wine industry was still very much in its infancy. In fact there were still plenty of cynics who didn’t think BC would ever make a good wine, period. Let alone make a drinkable red. Not only have they been proven wrong: the BC wine industry has proved to be a prime factor in shaping a truly regional cuisine, in Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler and just about everywhere else—including Kelowna.