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Black chefs, entrepreneurs well represented at 2023 Restaurants Canada Show

Several business owners took home prestigious food industry awards to boot.

Black chefs, entrepreneurs well represented at 2023 Restaurants Canada Show
Janice Bartley, far right, during a panel at the 2023 Restaurants Canada Show in Toronto April 8-10. FOODPRENEUR LAB PHOTO 

Black chefs received the highest praise at the 2023 Restaurants Canada Show held April 10-12 at the Enercare Centre in Toronto. And several business owners took home prestigious food industry awards to boot.

Among those honoured was Janice Bartley, founder of Foodpreneur Lab, a non-profit organization focused on levelling the playing field for Black entrepreneurs in the food service industry.

She received Restaurants Canada’s Innovation Award for being a trailblazer with more than 30 years of experience in the food sector.

“As a trailblazer in your field, you have used action and activism to address systemic issues facing underrepresented and unserved community groups in the food sector. Through your lived and professional experience and mentorship, you have created an incredibly influential platform and incubator for young entrepreneurs to grow and succeed in a sector in that they have historically been underserved by. It is with this passion, fire, and love for food that you have made a measurable and meaningful impact on the food community through carving out paths and opportunities for women of colour and minority groups working and participating in food entrepreneurship,” a letter announcing the honour sent to Black Dollar Magazine reads.

The letter highlights initiatives like the Black Diaspora Box, which has connected enterprises like The Drake Hotel to “small-batch, artisanal products that serve and support Black entrepreneurs.

Moreover, she was feted for providing the tools and mentorship programs through Foodpreneur Lab, including the cohort program, which is currently in its third round.

The award was a highlight for Bartley, who said the event embodied its ‘Heart and Hustle’ theme. She said she saw Black representation increase as opposed to years past, as Restaurants Canada made a concerted effort to ingratiate itself with Black audiences.

Specifically, she added that many entrepreneurs from past and current cohorts could attend and give away comp tickets to dozens of guests.

“I think us being there last year set the bar. We were the only Black non-profit organization representing the food industry, and this year we had the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance, who had booths this year,” Bartley told Black Dollar Magazine. “We really focus on visibility and how to showcase, so for me, this is a return on investment for the funding we received ($3 million over four years).”

The founder of Foodpreneur Lab also contributed her industry knowledge, speaking on panels that discussed food entrepreneurship and marketing, how companies can support Black chefs, and turning passion into performance and growth strategies.

Other panel discussions included: How Food Waste Can Create Energy, The Future of Dining, Design for Functionality, Menu Engineering 101, Better Business with Fair Trade, How to Streamline Your Workflow, Physiologically Safe Leadership, and more.

Representation for Black business owners a focus this year

Award-winning chef Tre Sanderson won Restaurants Canada’s Culinary Award of Excellence for making an “outstanding contribution to Canada’s culinary landscape.

“It’s been a long journey in my career and I haven’t always had this much acknowledgment or recognition. There have been many years of hardships and difficult times — many leaders and peers doubting my abilities and what I’m capable of. I’m so glad that I was able to stay resilient through it all and now have the opportunity to inspire the next generations of chefs,” Sanderson said in an Instagram post. “It’s truly amazing what you can accomplish when you block out the second-guessing and bet on yourself. It’s so important for culinary leaders to believe in their teams & take a chance on them — there is so much hidden talent in our industry; sometimes all they need is the opportunity to show it.”

Sanderson also served as a guest judge for the 2023 Garland Culinary Competition, as did Philman George, corporate chef for High Liner Foods.

Several businesses were on-site during the three-day event as vendors too, including Nerpys Inc., Hummingbird Patty Shop & Cafe, Lignum Honey, Eight50 Coffee, Nah Joke Gourmet Hotsauces, Patreats, Vanilla and Spice, Elsutra Foods Inc., and so many more.