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Lost in Richmond

Tourism Richmond is embarking on a promotional campaign reminiscent of Australia’s Best Job in the World contest and the more local Live at the Vancouver Airport. The deal is, the winning writer will eat at a different restaurant every day for a year, then flog the heck out of the Richmond restaurant scene through a blog and other social media. The blogger will be paid $50,000 plus a per diem, an apartment, and, so you don’t gain unwanted pounds eating all that deep fried Kung Pao chicken, a membership at the Steve Nash gym.

Coincidentally, I was just at a Steve Nash gym in Richmond. I won a personal training session. Took the Canada Line to Aberdeen (the area is dubbed the Golden Village by Tourism Richmond for reasons that escaped me), got out and had no idea what to do next. Even though I had a trip plan in hand. I had no idea what direction I was facing. There were no obvious bus stops and no signage. Everyone gets lost in Richmond. It’s one of the things it’s famous for, that, the Olympic speed skating oval, and the fact that it will be the first lower mainland city to sink into the sea because of an earthquake, tsunami or climate change. I finally hailed a cab, even the driver agreed that Richmond was not an easy town to navigate.

When I heard about the Richmond publicity gig on the news this week, it sounded pretty appealing. Given that I’m between contracts, again, I decided why not? I began to fill in an application on their Facebook page, the only way you can apply. Here’s some of my draft responses to their questions and the debate I’m having with myself.

Why do you want this job?

Love food. Love eating, talking and writing about food. Love being able to put food on the table.

Yes, but do you really want to move to Richmond? It’s basically a strip mall. Probably why they zeroed in on restaurants, as there’s not much else to see there. Or is there? Here are the reasons I have been motivated to go to Richmond. Ikea. Catching a flight from the airport (Tourism Richmond lists the airport as one of their must-see destinations). I have done a tea tasting in one of the city’s tea shops. Bought some Japanese dishware at Utsuwa-No-Yakata in the Yaohan Centre, one of the many Asian-themed shopping malls. Then the store was moved to Aberdeen Centre, tried to get there once, got lost, gave up, went to Metrotown. The bird estuary and the Sharing Farm at Terra Nova Park are worth a trip. Steveston, the historic fishing and canning village is the best part of Richmond (except for the part about interning the Japanese Canadians during WWII); every Vancouverite at some point will drive out for a walk along the dyke and wind up at Pajos on the wharf for fish and chips.

As for other eating, there are 653 restaurants listed on Dine Here Richmond, 192 of those are Chinese. I have been to the BoKong in Richmond. The superb vegetarian restaurant also had a location in Vancouver, both are now closed. I have also had one of the best vegetarian Chinese meals ever at Kirin in Richmond at a friend’s wedding. I believe being able to create a fabulous vegetarian meal is the mark of an excellent chef. The fact that I am a vegetarian could be a deal breaker though, even if I promised to dine with a MLF (meat-loving friend).

I have met my parents at the River Rock Casino Resort for a meal when they were on one of their gambling weekends. Believe me the smorg there is not for non-meat eaters. Thankfully, mom and dad stopped staying there when people started getting mugged in the parking lot.

Wikipedia says the strip malls along Alexandra Road in Richmond are famous for their restaurants, apparently called food street. Hmmm, why would I go there to eat at Nando’s when I can do that in my own neighbourhood? And presumably, because you’re being paid by Tourism Richmond, you would have to find good things to say about 365 restaurants and bubble tea shops. I think it might be a mistake for them to limit themselves to restaurants.

What is your food philosophy?

If you’re going to drown, drown in the Ganges.

Ideal meal and why

Breakfast, delicious no matter the culture. Dim Sum and jasmine tea, croissants & café au lait, potato-filled dosas with coconut chutney and chai, huevos rancheros and freshly squeezed OJ. Note obvious omission of back bacon, kippers, chicken feet and lox.

Most adventurous thing you’ve eaten

Can’t decide between macaroni laden deli meat, my grandpa’s head cheese (both pre-veg days) or deep fried oreos.

If you could travel anywhere in world, where would you go and why?

India, even the street food is to die for (see food philosophy above).

Should I say Hong Kong?

Why are you the best person for the job?

Award winning copywriter and creative director who worked for ad agencies across the country. (A mall friendly ad hack who) wrote for many food and travel clients like Pizza Pizza, MacDonald’s Restaurants, Safeway, The Pantry, White Spot , Tourism British Columbia, Travel Manitoba. Couldn’t hurt to mention that promotional event I did for the Ackroyd Plaza too, one of the many Richmond strip malls.

Author of two books on food, currently write a regular farmer profile column in BC Organic Growers Mag (zine, hipper?). Blog about growing food, farming, preparing and eating food, composting food, all things food and some other stuff that isn’t about food. A seasoned (old and jaded) writer, with travel and food writing experience, well travelled, look well fed, can get by in French and Spanish, know a smattering of German and garden Latin (but not the more useful Mandarin or Cantonese). I could give more background and cultural depth to the blog posts (probably not required at the proper 250 words a post, unlike this neverending one).

I blog and use Facebook and Twitter regularly. Although don’t have my own YouTube, Flickr, etc accounts at the moment (I am not young and hip), have set them up and managed for many clients. I have also done pod casts, coordinated and developed content for client blogs and websites. Former documentary film producer. I am a communications consultant – it’s what I do when I’m not desperately looking for a way to put food on the table.

Are you familiar with Richmond?

Not overly. Although I spent some time there as waste management consultant for the O Zone during the Olympics. Had some interaction with the mostly fast food outlets on site while trying to get people to compost their leftover burgers and fries, which would be composted at Fraser Richmond Soil & Fibre. But I think it’s actually an advantage to be a tourist in your town. I would be able to give people really good directions to the restaurants. I also know how to get to the Steve Nash gym now. By cab.

Here’s what I do know about Richmond. It’s BCs 4th largest city, with a population approaching 200,000. Sixty percent of the residents are Asian, mostly from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China. The city has become Vancouver’s new Chinatown, also known as little Hong Kong, with store signs in both English and Chinese and unfamiliar and exotic fruits and vegetables in the grocery stores. Immigrants are drawn there because they too want to be rich, man.

The Gulf of Georgia Cannery. Froze my tail off there at an event one night honouring the father of the ALR, Harold Steves, and yes Steveston is named after his family.

Richmond began as a fishing, salmon-canning and farming community back in 1879. If I were hired, at some point I would likely go off on a rant about how much farmland has been paved over in Richmond. Most of the remaining Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land (4,916 hectares) is in east Richmond, only 3,012 hectares are actually farmed; the rest is either non-farm use or vacant. The 247 farms are primarily growing cranberries and blueberries. W&A Farms grows potatoes, we used to buy straw from them when I worked at the Vancouver Compost Garden. I’ve also bought produce from a small farm behind Costco, which looks very out of place now. A bit of a boutique wine industry has sprung up around the berry growers, but as a teetotaler, I’d have to forego the booze too.

Five words to describe yourself  (trying out f-words)

Focused. Feisty. Flat-broke. Famished. Facetious.

So what do you think? Lost cause?

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