Chef professor Michael Olson will soon set sail on what promises to be an epic journey in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Aiming to celebrate Canada and connect Canadians, the C3 150-day expedition will sail around Canada’s coastline – the largest in the world – beginning from the Great Lakes in Toronto through the Northwest Passage, concluding in Victoria B.C.
On board for different legs of the journey will be a cross section of Canadian society: from musicians and artists, to filmmakers and scientists and politicians and aboriginal elders and youth. They will share the journey with Canadians from across the country by visiting communities along the way, and with the millions more expected to follow along virtually on media platforms.
Olson, a multiple award-winning premier chef known as a founder of Niagara’s wine country cuisine, first heard about the C3 expedition when he received a cold call a few months ago inviting him to apply.
“I thought it was a hoax until I saw the names Anita Stewart [writer/culinary activist] and Steven Beckta [noted Ottawa restauranteur]; two respected people in the food world,” he said.
“When I saw the scope of the excursion and the cultural reflection of the three oceans surrounding Canada, including learning opportunities from Indigenous elders and community leaders, I wanted to do my part to contribute to the cultural melting pot that this seems to be.”
His role will be guest chef on the first leg of the journey from Toronto to Montreal, from June 1 to June 10. While the kitchen staff overseas meal service, Olson will take the helm on a series of themed dinners onboard that reflect local culinary highlights and produce, as well as historical and geographic points of interest. He will be in charge of three special events in host locations including Toronto, Kingston and Cornwall.
Representing Niagara College and the Niagara region on this volunteer role, Olson is planning a Niagara banquet for his first dinner. He also plans to pour Niagara College wines and beer during the opening launch ceremonies, where the guest list will include the Governor General of Canada.
Olson said he is looking forward to meeting people from across Canada on the voyage who he would not likely meet otherwise, and learning about local history through his involvement with excursions and activities on board. For example, he expects to learn a lot about local history along the St. Lawrence Seaway.
“I am doing a dinner in Kingston with a theme around the life of Sir John A McDonald so have a lot of reading to get done to get acquainted with the foods being served nearly 200 years ago in Ontario,” he said. “I will be working with local cheesemakers, farmers and historians along the way, so I am going back to school and I don’t mind that one bit.”
His wife, chef Anna Olson, who is known as the host of popular television shows such as Food Network Canada’s Bake With Anna Olson, will also be involved with desserts for the C3 launch reception in Toronto, and plans to meet him again in Montreal.
“I’m expecting plenty of tears and a waving handkerchief,” he said. “And she might even shed a tear too.”