Member Spotlight: Culinaire Embodies Alberta Spirit

Date: 31st May 2021

By Sarah Moore

Collaboration: that’s the first thing that comes to mind when Culinaire editor-in-chief and publisher Linda Garson thinks about Alberta’s hospitality industry.

“It’s a question of everybody pulling together to do things, to be successful rather than competing with each other,” says Garson. “It’s an attitude I’ve not found in many places in the world, but it’s very supportive and it’s a great thing for the restaurant industry.”

Culinaire publishes 10 issues a year, focusing on the food and beverage scene in Alberta. The province’s cuisine is unique because of the products found here, ranging from prairie staples like beef, barley and honey, to game meats like elk, caribou and moose in the Rocky Mountains.

“These sorts of products are local and people are very proud of them, and the cuisine shows that,” says Garson.

Though the pandemic has made business “incredibly difficult” for the hospitality industry, she still sees the collaborative Alberta spirit shining through. For example, some businesses have teamed up to share a physical space, splitting rent to help both survive.

“People want to help each other – that’s the first thing they think of. So they work together,” says Garson.

Culinaire supports the local hospitality industry in a variety of ways. Since the pandemic, the magazine has not accepted any travel related pitches or pitches about chefs or recipes from outside of Alberta.

They also assign articles 1-2 months in advance, rather than their usual 3-4 months, in order to stay topical as restaurants shift between in-person dining and takeout offerings.

Culinaire has found opportunity in the expanding takeout world, working with restaurants and wineries to offer pairings of meals and beverages together. Once people purchase the package, they gain access to a video produced by Culinaire that talks about the pairing and the restaurants.

With the renewed emphasis on supporting local, Culinaire has printed a number of stories highlighting the work of producers, from farmers to distillers, who encapsulate the spirit of Alberta’s food and beverage industry.

“They don’t give up, they find a way around challenges and overcome them to succeed,” says Garson.

It’s a theme that is popular with readers.

“The difference with COVID has meant that the stories people want to read have an emotional attachment,” she says. “We’re talking about people, not just products.”

What was the first magazine you fell in love with?

I suppose it’s always been the food magazines – Food & Beverage, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit. All those magazines I would read avidly.

What is your favourite thing about working in magazines?

It’s a lifestyle. It is a profession, but when you’re an editor-in-chief and a publisher of a food and beverage magazine, it’s very much a lifestyle and it’s one that really suits me. You don’t wake up and know what your day is going to be like; it changes constantly. I’m very much a people person and a networker and in non-pandemic times, I’m usually out five nights a week meeting people. It’s all passion for me.

How would you describe Alberta’s magazine industry, in a couple of words?

It’s challenging, but we’re pushing through it. Magazines and publishing is a challenging industry normally. I think it’s pretty well understood that you don’t go into publishing to become rich. I’m not going to be the richest corpse in the cemetery, but I don’t need to be: I have the best life ever. It’s more challenging with COVID, but we are survivors.

Who is someone whose work you especially admire?

There are hundreds. I have terrific writers. Everybody that writes for Culinaire is freelance, and I’m constantly impressed by them. It’s very difficult, really, to pick one person.

In the food world, Ruth Reichl obviously is one that people like myself would think of as a hero, having written about food for so long.

What are you looking forward to in the next year?

I’m looking forward to the Alberta Beverage Awards in July. We didn’t even think we could run it last year and it turned out to be our biggest year yet, so I’m very much looking forward to this year. We’re hoping it’s going to be equally big.

I’m one of the judges for Mixology Masters, a cocktail competition show being filmed in Calgary. That’s separate from Culinaire but it’s because of the magazine that I was invited and it will benefit the magazine that I am in this show. So I’m looking forward to that TV series coming out in the autumn and seeing what that does for the magazine and how that opens things up, and opportunities for us for future collaborations with other people.

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