Tourism is an industry that showcases the unique culture any city has to offer. In Kingston, food is a major part of what makes it so extraordinary. Having one of the highest number of restaurants per capita out of any city in Canada, it’s no wonder it’s been ranked the happiest city in Canada by Jetpac. How can you not have a smile on your face while stuffing it with a mouthful of delicious food from one of the local joints that serve the freshest locally sourced foods Ontario has to offer? What better way to taste as much of that food scene as possible than doing a restaurant hopping experience with Kingston Food Tours! Kingston Food Tours was conceived by Heather Ford and Daniel Barrett with an emphasis on local and artisanal food in Kingston. But let’s allow Daniel to tell us more about himself and what makes him so passionate for what he does.
Can you give me a little bit of your background?
Heather and I are second and third generation Kingstonians, Heather’s mother and father opened a business called The Green Acres Inn in Kingston over 60 years ago. It is still in the family and is a large part of what motivated and gave us the confidence to start Kingston Food Tours. Both Heather and I attended Queen’s University here in Kingston and we both received a BA in Economics. Throughout my time at Queen’s I lived in the downtown core of the city and spent more time than I probably should have at the incredible, locally owned restaurants and bars in Kingston. Heather has sat on numerous tourism boards and economic development organizations. It was at a tourism conference that she first met Shane Kost, Founder of Chicago Food Planet. Shane’s love of Chicago and his experience with Food Tourism led us to study with him in Chicago where we learned about the elements required to make a world class food tour experience. Upon our return to Kingston we met with Tim Pater, owner and founder of Black Dog Hospitality. Tim owns 4 restaurants in Downtown Kingston, Chien Noir, Harper’s Burger Bar, Atomica Pizzeria & Wine Bar, and Dianne’s Fish Shack & Smokehouse. Tim is a driving force behind some of the success of the local food movement in Kingston. His restaurants source locally for everything from meats and cheeses, to produce and beer. One of his first questions when we met with him was, “are you local?”. I think that really speaks to this community’s support for small local business, not just within the food sector but throughout all avenues.
Why did you start Kingston Food Tours?
With the support of a number of local business owners, chefs, brewers, and tourism organizations including The Great Waterway, Tourism Kingston, and Downtown Kingston we were able to launch our first tour experience called The Classic Kingston Food Tour. Throughout the early days of setting up the tour, tasting delicious menus, and meeting the individuals who made them, we discovered a food culture in Kingston that was focused on producing local products at a world class level and a cycle where local residents and business were promoting and consuming from small local producers, which in turn was allowing these small producers to grow and continue to invest in the quality of their product. It is sincerely inspiring to meet people who do what they love and pour their hearts and souls into it, once you meet them it is impossible not to want to see them succeed. So it is important for us to shine a light on these talented producers not just for the large scale economic and environmental impacts it has but for the personal happiness that comes from seeing a great person being able to make something they love.
Why is it important for you to promote the local food movement?
Seeing that we are involved in the tourism community there are two things that we are passionate about, great customer experiences and promoting our city to visitors. For me personally, I really enjoyed working on the front desk of the hotel and one of my favourite parts was recommending restaurants to guests of the Inn. I loved it so much because, almost without exception, guests would return in awe of the incredible food scene they discovered in a relatively small city in Eastern Ontario. Entrepreneurs and artisanal producers are welcomed and supported within Kingston.
Favourite local activities in Kingston?
Outside of eating and drinking at our favorite restaurants, there are some really cool activities in Kingston that include exploring the Farmer’s Market, Kingston Axe throwing, Improbable Escapes, taking in a show at The Grand Theatre, a movie at The Screening Room, or in the summer hanging out by the water at The Kingston Yacht club or walking one of the great waterfront trails with my dog.