Why the Executive Director at Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance loves her job

Name: Rebecca Mackenzie

Title: Executive Director

Company: Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance

Years worked in current role: 8+

Years of experience in food industry: 19+

In 300 characters or less describe your job:

I work with destinations to support ‘taste of place’ development by connecting stakeholders along the food tourism value chain (farmers, food producers, farmers markets, restaurants, accommodations, attractions, tour operators, festivals and events). I foster an environment of collaboration and encourage co-opetition that results in increased economic impact, addresses food security and promotes pride in place. In addition to leading all food tourism consulting projects we deliver, I am responsible for writing all government grants, developing all of our organizations programs (such as Feast On (A Certified Taste of Ontario), and developing and implementing the organizations strategic plans.

What are the top 3 characteristics you need to be good at your job:

  • Be an effective communicator, comfortable presenting to groups with the ability to able to listen to stakeholders feedback and address concerns and new ideas.
  • Be empathetic, understanding the needs of the various stakeholders and the complex challenges they face in their business operations.
  • Be creative, have the ability to build big ideas with small budgets

Why did you decide to pursue a career in food?

My career in developing food tourism came from a passion for building local economies by connecting agriculture and tourism sectors. I wanted my children to grow up in a world where we value good food,  growing it, preparing it and savouring it.

Top 3 advice tips for students and new grads coming into the industry 

  1. Volunteer – find an organization whose work inspires you and get involved. Both the experience gained and the network built will be invaluable to your future
  2. Dream big and don’t let failure stop you. Learn from it and move on!
  3. Always be on time!

Tell us why your Food Job Rocks?

My food job rocks because I can see the positive impact of the work I contribute to. I am part of a movement, a positive change. No two days at work are ever the same. I have a small but mighty team that supports our work. I get to meet amazing people, travel the world and experience new food cultures. Not everyday is easy and there are a lot of challenges in running a not-for-profit organization but I’m thankful for all of my successes and my failures because both support my growth.

Favourite quote?

It’s actually a poem by Robert Frost – The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world”. Mahatma Gandhi

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