Campus Life  

OC Cultivates tasting and learning series highlights innovators in food, beverage and tourism

The panelists from OC Cultivates (from left): Phil Johnson, Jennay Oliver, Tony Stewart, Audrey Surrao and Neil Fassina.

Okanagan College’s newest event series, OC Cultivates, returned for a second time last week, with tastes and conversations to savour.

Thursday night's celebration explored the Okanagan’s unique and exciting food, beverage and tourism industries through a conversation with industry experts, along with delicious pairings from local producers and restaurants. 

The evening featured an on-stage panel, hosted by radio host Phil Johnson (AM1150), and including Audrey Surrao, co-owner of RauDZ Creative Concepts Restaurant Group; Tony Stewart, CEO of BACAS Family Estates and Quails’ Gate Estate Winery; Jennay Oliver, owner of Paynter’s Fruit Market; and Dr. Neil Fassina, president of Okanagan College.

“I enjoyed the conversation with fellow innovators in the food, beverage and tourism sector,” says Audrey Surrao. “OC Cultivates was an amazing gathering that highlighted the crucial importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to our region and the key role that education plays. Our business takes inspiration from what is unique about the Okanagan Valley, and I’m looking forward to the benefits that will come from sharing wisdom and ideas across this group.”

“Our connection to industry is what allows the College to create programming that supports the needs of communities across the Okanagan Valley,” says Dr. Fassina. “We were thrilled to be able to host so many of the region’s phenomenal beverage makers, chefs and food producers on campus last evening, and engage in conversation about the real challenges they face today, and what’s possible if we work together to continue supporting these businesses locally.”

Dr. Fassina said it was inspiring to hear the vision and aspirations of industry leaders for the Okanagan.

“Tony Stewart suggested we could become known as the ‘Tuscany of North America,’ which is true – and even more so, because the Okanagan represents excellence and innovation in food production and cuisine, an incredible range of beverages, and amazing hospitality and tourism experiences,” Dr. Fassina says. “I’m grateful to Jennay, Tony, Audrey and Phil for their participation, and excited to be able to continue the OC Cultivates events at the College in the months ahead.”

The event featured networking and an exclusive tasting festival, featuring 13 local beverage and food vendors, including BNA, Cannery Brewing, Farming Karma Fruit Co., Infusions Restaurant, OC Pastry Arts, Quail's Gate Estate Winery, Relvas Catering, Sysco, Tantalus Vineyards, The Modest Butcher, Unusually Good Food Co., Vice & Virtue, Cask and Barrel Liquor Store and Yuzu Bowl & Bistro. Bylands Nursery also supported the event.

Okanagan College was also represented in the festival, with booths hosted by OC Culinary Arts students, Executive Chef at Infusions Restaurant Ruth Wigman, and Chef Danny Capadouca, instructor of Pastry Arts at OC.  EnactusOC was also represented, pouring samples of their new hard cider, Unusually Good Cider.  

Okanagan College features several programs designed to support the food, beverage tourism industries and helping to create the workforce of the future. This includes OC’s Tourism Management Degree program, viticulture, wine sales and winery assistant certificate programs, as well as the ongoing Hospitality Professional Program. 

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