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7 July 2023

New Culinary Festival Celebrates Food In The NWT

Dave Brosha Photography c/o NWT Agrifood Association

Farm-to-table cuisine may not be the first thing to pop into your mind when thinking about the Northwest Territories but a new culinary festival is trying to change that.

The inaugural NWT Culinary Festival is a celebration of food in the North and takes place July 27-30 in Yellowknife.

Janet Dean is the Executive Director of the Territorial Agrifood Association and the creative force behind the new event. She is passionate about bringing the story of food culture in the Northwest Territories to the rest of Canada and the world.

One of the things that I keep bumping up against is people saying to me that we don’t grow any food in the North, that it’s impossible or that we don’t have any good chefs in the North because all we have are burger and fry joints,” she says. “I’ve lived here for more than 30 years and I can tell you that’s wrong.”

This 4-day culinary festival is aiming to breakdown stereotypes about food agriculture in the North and rewrite the narrative about local dining.

“We want to get the message out that there is a taste of place here and it’s an exciting taste of place,” Janet says.

Did you know that farmers in the Northwest Territories grow everything from root vegetables to herbs and leafy greens? Although the growing season is short, the 24 hours of summer sun makes up for it. One of the few things that can’t be grown in the North is corn since it has such a long growing season.

What can you expect at the inaugural NWT Culinary festival?

Photo by Angela Gzowski c/o NWT Agrifood Association

When Janet first conceived the idea for a culinary festival, she imagined a one day mini festival with food trucks and attractions.

But through her hard work and the passion of the many food producers and volunteers in the region, the festival grew into a huge event with four jam-packed days of activities, visiting celebrity chefs and inspiring collaborations.

There are ticketed events but also many free — and innovative — community activities. The common thread is that they all highlight the uniqueness of the food, art and culture of the NWT.

You can see a full list of events here, but some highlights include:

Small Bite Experience:

You’ll be emailed the secret location of this ticketed event that includes small bites of unexpected flavours from local and celebrity chefs created using local ingredients. We love the mix of local chefs working together with celebrity guests to create a surprise for festival goers.

Glass & Mixology:

Create your own cocktail glass at the Old Town Glassworks and then enjoy a Cocktail Masterclass hosted by celebrity mixologist Chris Anderson and local bartender Skye Plowman. We love that this is a no-waste event as the glass you make is the glass you use for the class and you get to take it home as a souvenir.

Free Fish Fry:

This free event takes place in Somba K’E Park and is hosted by the North Slave Metis Association. We love that the fish fry will be done by celebrity chef Jenni Lessard (from Saskatchewan) and her apprentice Phoenix Isnana and is free for the community to enjoy.

Midnight Snack Under Midnight Sun:

When the sun shines well into the night, why not take advantage of it? This free event (tickets required) serves a gourmet snack from 11:30 pm until 2 am on the edge of the lake. We love that you can dip your toes in the water and enjoy the midnight sun while also enjoying delicious local foods.

Also planned are a community Salad Toss, a Meet the Makers event, a Street Festival and so much more. Visit the NWT Culinary Festival site for full details and to purchase tickets.

“We want people to see and realize the North is not just frozen land,” Janet says. “We have tremendous Aurora tourism but that starts at the end of August and is over by March. In between is the perfect time to come visit with the bright sun, long days and beautiful weather.”