K-Days spices up the fairgrounds with Edmonton-sourced food

Daniel Huber helps showcase the province’s high-quality culinary offerings

Edmontonians tend to feel a sense of ownership over K-Days, the city’s largest festival, held each summer by Northlands. When the event was renamed Capital Ex in 2006, abandoning the decades-old handle of Klondike Days, online forums reflected the zeitgeist in thorny cynicism. “They should have never renamed it,” wrote one commenter. “Capital Ex … does nothing to promote our civic pride.”

When Northlands invited citizens to weigh in on another rebrand before the 2012 event, “K-Days” came out on top. The expectation in that choice is clear. Citizens wanted the festival to connect to something uniquely Edmontonian, and that it embody and bolster that “civic pride” – even if it’s wrapped up in history (i.e., the Klondike gold rush) that has almost nothing and yet seemingly everything to do with the city.

From July 20 to 29, that expectation will be met in a new and tasty way, when part of the Edmonton Expo Centre is transformed into Eat at the Grand – a nearly 54,000-square-foot hall filled with local restaurateurs and food producers assembled by chef and consultant Daniel Huber (Cook ’10).

“It’s like a showcase for the city itself.”

“It’s like a showcase for the city itself,” says Carson Mills, Northlands communications manager. Not to dismiss the corn dogs and cotton candy that give the midway its traditional carny flavour, but, “If you want to have a proper lunch, this is where you’re going to go.”

“Food in every direction”

daniel huber, NAIT grad, chef, consultant, k-days, edmonton“We’re super excited to capitalize on the talent that exists in our city and our community,” says Mills. “It’s why we brought in people like Daniel to help find the best that’s available and what we feel will appeal to festival-goers.”

Packed with “food in every direction,” Eat at the Grand represents a balance that Huber (pictured nearby), a seasoned large-scale culinary event organizer, worked for several months to achieve.

Eat at the Grand represents a balance that Huber worked for several months to achieve.

“All the vendors in my hall are locally sourced,” he says. “I handpicked a group of food vendors that I have a good relationship with and who can also handle volume.”

The result is 15 restaurants and producers (in addition to local beer and spirit makers, selected by Northlands and the Alberta Small Brewers Association) selling meals of southern barbecue, Chinese crepes, homemade pickles, curry, roast chicken and much more.

“It doesn’t cater to just one specific kind of person,” says Huber. It’s meant to offer something to each of the 80,000 to 100,000 people expected to take in K-Days daily.

It’s also meant to promote the quality of Edmonton’s culinary and food producing community.

“I think people are fed up with macro distilleries and breweries and food producers,” says Huber. “They are starting to realize that they can get the same value, if not better value, by buying local.”

With the help of events like K-Days, he hopes that realization can help Edmonton’s food community grow even stronger.

peter keith, chef, nait grad, meuwly's, edmontonA new legacy

So does Peter Keith (Cook ’12), co-owner of Meuwly’s, a market focused on deli-style meat products, condiments, preserves and more, all made in house and featuring ingredients from local producers.

Keith opened the west Edmonton shop with business partner Will Kotowicz (Culinary Arts ’05) a week before K-Days. Huber knew them as a customer of their Secret Meat Club, a subscription charcuterie and preserves package launched as a kind of market-testing precursor to Meuwly’s.

“When we signed up [for K-Days], we thought the timeline for opening our business would be much further ahead than where we are now,” says Keith. Nevertheless, “We agreed that we would make it happen.”

Meuwly’s expects to introduce a few thousand customers to its artisan concept.

Meuwly’s expects to introduce a few thousand customers to its artisan concept by offering Italian sausage on a bun and a veggie sandwich made with shaved pickled beets.

“I think it will be a great opportunity for us to promote our business,” says Keith. “And if we do it really well, it will give us a nice cash boost. For any new business that can be really helpful.”

Mills sees the benefit for K-Days as well. “These connections to local producers, local creators and local food makers, this is the real strength that we have going for us this year,” he says.

“And I think this is the trend we’re going to follow. K-Days is going to do all the things that people want it to do – your rides, your rodeo, all those classic things – but these new [elements] are going to define the event for years to come.”

In other words, a new kind of legacy might be in the works, and perhaps a new source of civic pride. “If I can help get that rooted, that would be great,” says Huber.

In the meantime, he’s convinced that Edmonton’s oldest exhibition is leading the way as a champion of local producers. “Each year now the bar is going to be set in a way that other festivals have to go the same way.”

NAIT grads at Eat at the Grand

Sandwich and Sons – homemade chips and deli-style sandwiches. Celebrated smoked meat
Alex Sneazwell (Culinary Arts ’11), owner and chef

Why Not Cafe – a revolving menu featuring fresh seasonal ingredients. Dill pickle soup garners rave reviews
Levi Biddlecombe (Culinary Arts ’11), co-owner and chef

Meuwly’s – charcuterie, sausage, deli meats, condiments and preserves, all handmade on location. Newly opened
Peter Keith (Cook ’12) and Will Kotowicz (Culinary Arts ’15), co-owners and chefs

Cornerstone BBQ and Spice Co. – authentic, juicy BBQ, including ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sauces, spices and more. Seriously smokey
Tom Markle (Cook ’14), chef

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