Who doesn’t remember as a kid going out with your parents for Chinese food? Back then, Chinese food was the only Asian-style cooking available. There wasn’t much Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, etc. And this was years before we distinguished Chinese food by the region it came from in China – Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese and others.

Now the tables have turned on us, so to speak.

I recently had the privilege to host a group of tour operators from China at KITCHEN. These travel professionals sell tour packages to visit Edmonton and Alberta to people living in China. And from what I gathered from this group, interest in travelling to Edmonton, Alberta and Canada is growing.

Much like us North Americans who explored the Asian food scene first with “western” Chinese, then Szechuan, then Hunan and so on, the Chinese have a growing interest in our cuisine. Their hunger has progressed beyond the typical North American burger and fries.

For my guests, there was as much excitement in seeing a bison or moose for the first time, as there was in tasting bison or moose for the first time. While there is more than beef in Alberta, beef is what we are known for. When I served braised boneless short ribs from Spring Creek Ranch with locally made Brassica Mustard, my guests were amazed that the ranch where the beef came from was only a hundred kilometres away. They were equally impressed that the beets were locally grown, served with honey from a town just a short drive away (Wetaskwin). Potatoes from The Little Potato Company were a fascination because of their size, and in part because they were topped with horseradish cream fraiche. With a Saskatoon tart for dessert; a berry virtually unknown in many other countries, served with homemade honey ice cream, their perspective of Edmonton, Alberta and Canada went from good to great.

My time with these international travel professionals was proof that Canada and Alberta are becoming known for more than our environment and beautiful surroundings.

This KITCHEN party was an eye opener for me. It made me realize how important “the experience” is. It was cool to watch people from other cultures experience and enjoy what we have to offer. It also reinforced the idea that if we celebrated our food a little bit more and really told its story, more people would be more interested in exploring what we have in our own backyard. You don’t need to leave the city or province to experience and taste something new.

And finally, this experience made me realize that sometimes you need to see your world through someone else’s eyes to truly appreciate what we have – including our food. We are fortunate to have so many great food products in Edmonton and around Alberta.

No matter where you come from, it is food that connects us all.