November 7, 2017 1:23 am

Edmonton wine expert says EEDC fails to provide adequate exposure for city’s culinary scene

WATCH ABOVE: After being on the road for a while, Gurvinder Bhatia (the Edmonton wine guy) tells us how people in other cities perceive Edmonton’s food and wine scene.

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An Edmonton wine expert says the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) has done an “abysmal” job in promoting and marketing the city’s culinary scene.

In a letter to Mayor Don Iveson, Gurvinder Bhatia wrote EEDC leadership has been “ineffective, inefficient, self-serving, arrogant and financially irresponsible.

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“[EEDC leadership] would rather squander their resources on self-congratulatory, city-wide propaganda, copycat events that neither raise the profile of our city nor bring visitors to the city, huge financial disasters whose losses get buried in EEDC’s multi-million dollar budget and flying in and hosting third-tier ‘writers’ who will ‘play for pay’ versus real journalists from respected publications,” Bhatia wrote.

EEDC is an agency of the City of Edmonton that has a mission to “build Edmonton’s reputation, drive the global growth ambition of Edmonton companies and attract visitors and investment” to increase city growth.

READ MORE: OpenTable names 13 Edmonton restaurants among Canada’s best hidden gems

Bhatia, who is the founder and executive director of the Northern Lands wine and culinary festival, accused EEDC of not only providing no support for the festival, but discouraging it, including charging more than double for the Shaw Conference Centre compared to two years earlier.

“Northern Lands is a grassroots festival operated on a shoestring budget that resulted in, and continues to result in, more positive exposure for Edmonton than most of what EEDC has been able to accomplish with its multi-million dollar budget,” Bhatia wrote.

He said the festival provides national and international exposure to the city — despite the lack of support from EEDC — and sold 5,000 tickets for this year’s event, with over 30 per cent of those being purchased by people who don’t live in Edmonton.

Besides the Northern Lands festival, Bhatia believes EEDC has done a poor job of providing exposure for Edmonton’s culinary scene as a whole.

“I don’t think they’ve done a really good job and I think they need to do a better job of that,” Bhatia said during a Global Edmonton Morning News interview on Sunday.

READ MORE: Canada’s best new restaurants in 2017, according to enRoute

In October, enRoute magazine released its annual best new restaurants in Canada list, which included Edmonton’s Clementine, Cafe Linnea and Alder Room.

Bhatia said it’s great for Edmonton to receive recognition, but it’s largely because of business owners’ own doing.

“Attention is coming because they’re so good, not because the people who are supposed to promote it are actually doing a good job of it.”

Bhatia said even people from Canadian cities located relatively close to Edmonton — who are knowledgeable about food — were surprised.

“The people who were here from Vancouver for Northern Lands were like, ‘Oh my God, we had no idea,'” Bhatia said.

“If there’s a city an hour flight away from us and they don’t know, it’s because we haven’t in our city done a good job of promoting that we have a lot of great things happening here.”

Bhatia called for the “complete overhaul” of EEDC’s leadership.

The EEDC declined Global News’ request for an interview, instead pointing to several links to media coverage of Edmonton’s food restaurant scene.

“In the past several months, we have seen strong interest in our culinary industry, and that has translated into some excellent coverage,” the EEDC said in an email.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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