By Nina Kalirai
Transcribed By Tashia Antoine
Since its inception in 1879, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is one of Toronto’s most popular summer attractions. The event offers an eclectic mix of exhibits, live entertainment, agricultural displays, air shows and sporting events all-inclusive of a large carnival midway with rides, games and food.
With food as an integral part of the 18-day CNE experience, organizers are tapping into the East Coast for inspiration, variety and insatiable taste. The East Coast Kitchen Party, now in its second year at the CNE is pulling out all the stops to give Toronto some of the distinctive East Coast vibe through music, culture and cuisine.
In this VIBE TALKS interview Correspondent Nina Kalirai speaks with Jed Corbeil – organizer of the East Coast Kitchen Party (CNE) about the significance of the event, how it came to be and how it is already a growing attraction for CNE patrons.
Nina: What is the East Coast Kitchen Party?
Jed: The East Coast Kitchen Party is a celebration of all things East Coast at the CNE Grounds. It’s our opening event for the entire National Exhibition in that area. We set up all across Princes’ Boulevard, right at the gates of the CNE where we have East Coast music, East Coast food, East Coast beverages, and a lot of East Coast games and competitions. It’s basically a celebration of the great East Coast vibes you would get if you were having a festival in the East Coast.
Nina: How many years has the East Coast Kitchen Party been running for?
Jed: This is the second year of the East Coast Kitchen Party. We started this last year.
Nina: What is the significance of the East Coast Kitchen Party?
Jed: Well, I know that the CNE’s planning committee team and directors did a conference out in New Brunswick and they were given such a warm welcome. They had their whole event out in the East Coast with different food and drink elements and music. When they came back from their planning last year, they said that we have to have this great event where people can celebrate the East Coast at Canada’s largest exhibition.
Nina: How exactly did the East Coast Kitchen Party come to be? What goes into the planning and what not?
Jed: Our Concessions Director organizes a number of East Coast themed food trucks. We have an oyster shucking competition, an oyster booth, and East Coast music throughout the whole weekend, where we have bands playing East Coast themed music. We also have East Coast beer, East Coast wine, East Coast spirits and people can come and get a festival cup and sample different beverages like beer, wine and spirits. They can also go and enjoy some great seafood at one of the food trucks. We also have our honorary team from Newfoundland to come and do screeching in ceremonies, where we try the Newfoundlander screech, say a little diddy and have yourself an honorary Newfoundland right here in Toronto.
Nina: You mentioned what some of the vendors offer, are any of these vendors coming from the East Coast itself? Or are they more local?
Jed: Well it’s products from the East Coast that we are representing here in Toronto. We order wine and spirits and beer straight from the East Coast, and we represent them here.
Nina: Who are some of the vendors of this year’s East Coast Kitchen Party and what do they have to offer?
Jed: We do actually have some Eastern Ontario beer representatives, and wine and cider representatives. Some of the East Coast beer that we’ve had in the past and that we’ll have this year are, the Prince Edward Island Brewing Company who send some of the beach chair lager, and we have Propeller Brewery send some of their India Pale Ale (IPA). We also have Iron Works send some of their spirits, and from Prince Edward County we have some wine, cider and the Newfoundlander screech coming. But we do have a number of surprises coming your way for the opening next Saturday.
Nina: You mentioned the Newfoundland Screech, did you want to explain what exactly that is?
Jed: So, it’s an over proof rum that started as a trade with Jamaica, where the Newfoundlanders would send them cod and they would send up this over proof rum, and it was like this beautiful agreement. It’s become this tradition when you go to Newfoundland, at a lot of the bars there on their famous George Street with fifty-two pubs, you can go in and get “screeched in” or become an honorary Newfoundlander. You’d have to say this little speech and take a shot of this over proof rum, and you become an honorary Newfoundlander. It’s a great tradition and if you ever get the chance to visit Newfoundland, it’s something that everybody has to do. We decided to bring it here. So, we have our honorary Newfoundlander, we have the Screech, we have an honorary glass that we’ve made just for CNE festival goers. They can say their little speech, and have their shot and become one of the crew.
Nina: That sounds like a lot of fun, for sure! What would you say is the most different for this year’s East Coast Kitchen Party versus what last year’s party was like?
Jed: We have a year under our belt, so we know what kind of crowds to expect. We do a great oyster shucking competition and Caesar competition on the Sunday, which is always a lot of fun. We had a great turn out last year and we are expecting even more this year. Something really, really fun to watch is doing the speed competition with the oyster shucking and getting to see some of the creative Caesar’s that people are making during that competition. I guess just having a year of growth and getting things locked down as far as celebrating the East Coast.
Nina: Is there anything different in terms of the types of vendors that you have? Did you add any new vendors this year that weren’t there last year? Or is there a different type of East Coast food that’s coming this year that wasn’t there last year?
Jed: We are bringing some East Coast themed food this year that wasn’t there last year. We’re putting some twists on some classic favourites that we have at the CNE. We have an amazing deep-fried cheese booth called the King of Curds and they’re doing an East Coast themed cheese offering with donair sauce. It’s pretty much something you have to try if you come to the CNE.
Nina: That sounds really good! What can those attending expect from this year’s East Coast Kitchen Party?
Jed: They can expect amazing hospitality, great music, great food, great fun, some awesome spirits, wine and beer, and they can expect to get themselves screeched in on stage.
Nina: Where in the CNE can we find the East Coast Kitchen Party?
Jed: So, right at the Princes’ Gates where you get into the CNE, right there off Strachan Avenue. If you walk through the Princes’ Gates, we are the first thing you see.
Nina: Is it going to be running for the entire CNE?
Jed: It will be running Saturday the 18th starting at 5:00pm and all day Sunday the 19th from 11:00am to close.
Nina: Where can listeners go for more information on the East Coast Kitchen Party
Jed: You can check out the CNE’s webpage and click on events, and check out all the things that are going on at the CNE there.
The CNE is a long-standing attraction that continues to remain inclusive and reflective of its diverse community. The East Coast Kitchen Party is simply another great option that first-timers, and those familiar with East Coast cuisine alike, can enjoy amazing treats and eats.