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Global Taste

taste of toronto

Heidi Ladell is Senior Vice President, Head of Culinary, for IMG – which owns and operates Taste festivals around the world.

Currently,  the annual event that is Taste takes place in 20 cities, including London, UK, where it originated, and other culinary hotspots as diverse and far-flung as Dubai, Paris, Sydney and Hong Kong. So when Canada’s 100 Best rang her Los Angeles-based mobile,  we had to begin by asking where she was.

Heidi Ladell: In rainy London. You need to be in many different time zones at once to do this job!
C100B: On that note, next year the Taste portfolio will grow to include events in Singapore, Shanghai, Sâo Paulo and Munich. The year after you’re adding Seoul and Tokyo. It must be incredibly difficult to operate in such diverse cultures.
HL: It’s really not. Taste is very local. [In each place] you come into a community and become part of it. Very few key personnel at these events are not part of the culinary scene we’re celebrating. We’re very good at finding people who know the Taste brand.
C100B: And what is the essence of that brand – the key to its broad appeal?
HL: I would love to know that! The beauty of Taste is that each event we produce has all the right ingredients – no pun intended. That includes a fantastic venue, a great culinary scene – and people willing to support a premier event.
C100B: That includes the chefs, who you seem to be very good at motivating to turn out premium food samples. There was toro and caviar on offer in Toronto last year. And this year, a venison chop. Pricey stuff that you don’t usually see at other similar festivals.
HL: They make revenue. They walk away with money [vendors takes 60% of their posted item price, and IMG, 40%].
C100B: What will be different this year from last?
HL: Our evolving chef lineup. It’s deliberate. In Paris, 100% of the participants from last year wanted to come back this year. We changed anyway. We try and provide a sample of the best restaurants in any given place. As the community grows and changes, so will Taste. That’s an essential part of our brand.