When a top chef was brought in to show off 'Canadian' food in China

The goal was to show off the best of Canadian food to some diners on the other side of the globe.

Maurice O'Flynn helped 1988 effort to get more Canadian cuisine served and sold at Chinese hotels

Marketing Canadian food in China

36 years ago
Duration 2:15
In 1988, Chef Maurice O'Flynn took part in an effort to promote Canadian food in China.

The goal was to show off the best of Canadian food to some diners on the other side of the globe.

To that end, Maurice O'Flynn, an Alberta chef and member of Canada's Culinary Olympics team, had been recruited to serve up appealing dishes, at a special exhibition at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China, in 1988.

"The staff and the buffet table are crowned with the appropriate adornments," the CBC's Tom Kennedy told viewers, as they saw diners there looking at menus featuring a drawing of the Canadian flag, in a report that aired on The National on April 18 of that year.

The people eating at the hotel were offered a choice of items that included Canadian wine and Alberta steaks, as well as Atlantic and Pacific salmon.

Woman wearing white cowboy hat
The servers wore cowboy hats when the effort to promote Canadian food was underway at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China. (The National/CBC Archives)

And they were served by staff wearing cowboy hats, in an apparent nod to Calgary Stampede-appropriate fashion.

"The target: the foreign tourists and business people that are flooding into China," said Kennedy, who said such foods were less of a draw for the people who lived there — except for the fact a top chef was involved with the menu at that particular moment.

Serving the people at home

Man in chef's hat
In 1988, Chef Maurice O'Flynn appeared on a TV show that aired in China as part of an effort to promote Canadian food sales at hotels in that country. (The National/CBC Archives)

O'Flynn was also making an appearance on a TV show broadcasting in China, again trying to tell the story of what Canada had to offer.

It was necessary to do some selling on that end of things, as Kennedy reported that menu items like filet mignon and noodle salad weren't typical dinner fare locally.

Hand arranging food on a plate
The goal of the promotion efforts was to give Canadian food a leg up in the Chinese hotel market, with the aim of selling and serving it to tourists in China. (The National/CBC Archives)

"The food festival is being staged to try to give Canadian food products an edge in the tourist hotels and restaurants — a market now dominated by New Zealand and Australia," said Kennedy.

"And if the Chinese can learn a little something about Canada, so much the better."

Buffet table with statue of man on horse atop it
A special food exhibition at the White Swan Hotel sought to promote Canadian food in 1988. (The National/CBC Archives)

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