The Best Tomato in the World
Written by Ashwin Freyne
Photograph courtesy of Eric Pateman
Eric Pateman is one of the world’s top culinary tourism experts and has travelled to all 7 continents, over 120 countries and has eaten in thousands of restaurants. He still believes that some of the best produce he has ever eaten was produced in the Yukon. “By far the best tomato that I would put hands down, better than anything I’ve had in Spain or Italy” says Pateman referring to a tomato grown in Dawson City.
Pateman is the organizer of this year’s Yukon Culinary Festival, an event taking place August 1st to 4th this year in both Whitehorse and Dawson City. The event, which has been running since 2013, showcases the unique culture and people of the Yukon through a culinary lens. Events, such as cooking demonstrations, foraged food meals and farm lunches allow attendees to familiarize themselves with important culinary players and processes that makes the food scene in the territory special.
The Yukon food scene has not always been especially touted, but this is changing. Pateman says he has seen more restaurants open in Whitehorse in the last twelve months than in the previous five years combined. In addition to the increase in culinary options and talent, Pateman is optimistic about the future of locally sourced Yukon food. Despite the infamously short growing season in the north, innovations such as hydroponics facilities, geothermal plants, and new abattoirs are all making the option of local food more and more accessible to Yukoners. “I think it’s going to continue to evolve definitely, from a production standpoint,” says Pateman “ I’m hopeful that we will see some government intervention to make it a little bit easier for people to grow local product and get it to market.”
Pateman is also quick to point out the importance of that indigenous culinary history plays within the Yukon food scene as a whole. In fact, he says the best meal he has ever eaten in the territory was at an event in Carcross. “We brought in a number of indigenous chefs, to forage, and cook seal meat and cook smelt on the fire” recalls Patemen, “For me, the experience that I got and the learning that I got from some of Canada’s top indigenous chefs was definitely a highlight for me.”
When asked what he hopes to achieve with this year’s festival, Pateman expressed very clear goals. He hopes attendees continue to grow their understanding of who in the local market is doing what, to build a continued excitement for the culinary scene in the Yukon and a continued excitement about local food in the north. Though Pateman travels extensively, (up to 270 days a year) he has still found time to come to the Yukon at least 2 or 3 times each year since he began working with the festival in 2015. What keeps drawing him back? “The passion that the local people have for foraged food, for indigenous ingredients, for wild game” he says, “it’s that true understanding and passion that goes into everything they do.”
You can visit the Yukon Culinary Festival between August 1st and 4th in both Whitehorse and Dawson, as well as satellite events July 27 to 31. Additional information and ticketing can be found on Yukon Culinary Festival website (http://www.yukonculinary.ca).