On November 1-2, 2023, our Forward Food team and Simon Fraser University co-hosted The SFU and Forward Food Summit: Deepening Local Roots in Food Service (Plant-Based Edition). The goal was to educate and inspire the food service industry in British Columbia to embrace plant-based foods for the many benefits they offer. 

The event began with a culinary training for 22 local chefs, with participants from Compass Group Canada, Dana Hospitality, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia and the Provincial Health Services Authority. Over the course of the day, Forward Food Chef Amy Symington guided the chefs through preparing over 35 plant-based recipes, including crabless crab cakes made with hearts of palm, creamy corn chowder with tempeh bacon, pulled jackfruit sandwiches with rainbow coleslaw, pasta in a creamy béchamel sauce and butterscotch squash coffee cake with a maple glaze.  

Forward Food chef Amy Symington prepares pancakes on the left. On the right, a display of breakfast dishes is shown.

Throughout the training, the chefs found the dishes to be “incredibly delicious” and they agreed that they could easily use the recipes in their various operations. We received feedback that it was a very positive experience overall and several participants enjoyed it more than they thought they would, given their relatively little previous exposure to plant-based cuisine. In fact, one chef was adamant coming into the session that they would never try tofu; by halfway through the day, they had prepared a devilled tofu egg salad sandwich recipe we assigned them, and they liked it! 

Following the training, we invited summit speakers and sponsors to join us for a fully plant-based dinner buffet, comprised of dishes prepared by the chefs during the training. An intimate dinner followed, where approximately 20 participants discussed what led them to be involved in the summit.  It was a beautiful way to celebrate World Vegan Day! 

The following day, on November 2, approximately 140 local leaders in the food industry joined us for the summit. Attendees joined us from organizations represented in the training, as well as the University of Victoria, Vancouver Coastal Health, the Canadian Food Innovation Network, Sodexo Canada and many more. The full-day program covered two themes: why we need to shift to a more plant-forward food system, and how to do it well. We had 9 information-packed sessions with a diverse line-up of speakers, on topics including the environment, social justice, health, marketing, and innovation. 

We were honoured to have Chef Stephanie Baryluk, from SFU, open the summit with a traditional Indigenous welcome. 

The day was also filled with delicious, fully plant-based food, beginning with a breakfast featuring tofu scramble, sausage, croissants, and fresh fruit. Lunch was an assortment of sandwiches and salads, with brownies for dessert. We received donations of local kefir water and vegan and gluten-free donuts for the afternoon break. The most delicious part of the event was arguably the tradeshow: we were thrilled to have 15 local vendors join us to showcase their plant-based products, from Waygu “beef” and pinto bean pockets, to cashew cheeses and smoked “salmon”.

The event garnered highly positive feedback, with attendees reporting that their levels of knowledge about plant-based foods increased significantly. It was an inspiring two days that generated important conversations. In the words of one attendee, an executive chef who works in the provincial health-care system: “There was some amazing collaboration and networking done over the past two days and I’m excited to see what we can achieve.” Another attendee from BC Dietitians said, “I had a lot to take away and feel inspired by all the speakers.” 

We were pleased to offer these events free-of-charge, requesting only a small donation to the SFU Food Pantry, for which we raised over $1,300. To see a brief video recap of the summit, please click here. 

We are proud to have collaborated with SFU on this exciting event, and to have the campus – which serves roughly 7,000 meals per day – sign our Forward Food pledge and commit to making their menus at least 20% more plant-based in the next two years.