A new award adds spice to the Canadian culinary community

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First aired on Here and Now Toronto (1/13/12)

The Scotiabank Giller Prize raises the profile and fortunes of the author who wins the prestigious prize. Now, cookbook authors hope a revamp of their most prestigious prize will do the same for them. For nearly 15 years, the Canadian Culinary Book Awards have honoured the best cookbooks and food writing in both English and French. Now the prize has a new name, a new logo, new award categories and even a new chairperson.

The goal of Taste Canada: The Food Writing Awards is to raise awareness of food writing and cookbooks in this country outside the culinary community. "We felt [the awards] were really under-recognized," said Karen Gelbart, the new national chair of Taste Canada. "We thought if we had a new shorter name, a new logo and new awards categories that were really easy to understand, we could increase the reach and get more people understanding and knowing about these awards."

The new Food Writing Awards will have four categories in English and the same four in French: general cookbooks, single-subject cookbooks, regional or cultural cookbooks and culinary narratives.

Gelbart pointed out that cookbook sales have remained stable year after year. Food personalities are more popular than ever and food television is extremely successful. Terms like "organic" and "quinoa" have entered the everyday vernacular. People are paying attention to food.

So why not pay attention to an award that celebrates food writing? "The awards are positioned to take advantage of an explosive growth in the last 10 years," Gelbart said. "The mystique has been taken out of the profession kitchen. Food is now for everybody."

Gelbart is no stranger to the Canadian food world. She was a key player in bringing the Food Network to Canada and is confident she can find similar success with Taste Canada.

"There are a number of terrific, first-class writers and food authors in this country," she said. "Our awards are going to showcase the best of the best and further promote these great names."