October 1, 2023


Travel Adventure

Culinary gathering celebrates legacy of Anita Stewart, 20 years of Food Day Canada

4 min read

ELORA – The savoury scent of freshly prepared Canadian ingredients fills the air as chefs and cooks exercise their culinary chops on the Jack R. MacDonald bridge on Aug. 1.

Foodies and residents alike are cradling sizzling dishes of smoked brisket and seafood paella as they explore other offerings from the likes of LaFontana, The Friendly Society and The Wild Tart in the warm glow of a late afternoon summer sun.

A live band performs “Drops of Jupiter” as a background track while people come together over a mouthwatering journey in Canadian food, right at home in downtown Elora.

The gathering kicked off the 20th anniversary of Food Day Canada, and celebrated the culinary legacy of the late Anita Stewart.

The Elora resident spent a lifetime advocating for Canadian food and brought people together in kitchens across the nation with her many cookbooks.

A cookbook signed by Anita Stewart in 1987 and gifted to Resa Lent of Desert Rose Cafe. Photo by Jordan Snobelen


If only she could have only been there on Tuesday evening.

Coined “Party on the Bridge,” the gathering started with a conversation atop the Elora Mill Granary as one of Anita’s four sons, Jeff Stewart, Mill staff and Elora BIA members overlooked Mill Street.

Wearing a shirt with a phrase Anita thought up — “Kiss a chef, hug a farmer, eat real food” — Jeff recalls thinking “What could this be?”

“Next thing you know, there’s a bunch of people getting involved,” he says.

The Elora Mill, Elora BIA, Elora Centre for the Arts, Riverfest Elora and many others contributed their expertise to make the event happen.

“And here we are today,” Jeff said, looking out over the Grand River running beneath the downtown pedestrian bridge, adding it “feels surreal.”

Foodies and residents peruse culinary offerings presented on the Jack R. MacDonald pedestrian bridge in downtown Elora for a “Party on the Bridge” event on Aug. 1 to celebrate the legacy of the late Anita Stewart and Food Day Canada. Photo by Jordan Snobelen


Although the dishes being served up may trace their origins to far-off places such as Brazil, as is the case with a picanha beef dish, Canadian interpretations and flavours were front and centre.

A seafood dish served by the Elora Mill incorporated mussels and scallops from Nova Scotia and oysters from British Columbia.

Canada’s food also reaches plates far beyond our borders, Jeff notes.

Someone lathering Dijon mustard, named after the French city of Dijon, onto a burger in France, may be eating seeds grown in Manitoba (Canada’s prairies are one of world’s largest producers of mustard seed).

A seafood paella dish seen on the Jack R. MacDonald pedestrian bridge in downtown Elora for a “Party on the Bridge” event on Aug. 1. Photo by Jordan Snobelen


Food Day Canada, being celebrated this weekend on Aug. 5, was started by Anita in 2003 to assuage fears over an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, at the time.

Anita organized the “world’s longest barbecue” with a focus on beef.

“She said, ‘let’s get Canada’s beef on the barbecue and help out farmers,’” Jeff recalls.

Chefs, restaurant and farmers across the country ensured beef was a prominent feature on the menu.

As the event gained momentum and mad cow abated, the focus shifted to locally grown and produced food across Canada.

Ingredients are carried through a crowd on the Jack R. MacDonald pedestrian bridge in downtown Elora for a “Party on the Bridge” event on Aug. 1. Photo by Jordan Snobelen


Anita wanted people to think about buying and consuming locally grown food as a conscious choice, Jeff says.

The event has since become a Canada-wide celebration of food and people — from farm to fork.

Thanks to recent parliamentary efforts of Senator Rob Black and Perth-Wellington MP John Nater, the Saturday of each August long weekend is now officially recognized as Food Day Canada.

“Mom had an indelible impact on food in Canada and in Elora,” Jeff tells the Advertiser.

“Maybe to a certain degree she’s watching out,” he says, taking a moment as tears begin to fall.

“I wish she was here to see it.”

If she were, there’s little doubt in Jeff’s mind that Anita, an ever supportive mother, would say how proud she is.

“It’s absolutely awesome to be part of her legacy,” he said.

Anita Stewart


To learn more about Food Day Canada and ways to celebrate, click or tap here.

Organizers are encouraging people to use the hashtag #FoodDayCanada when sharing food stories online.


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