The Food Professor

Misunderstanding Salmon, Special Guest Cory Mintz and his new book The Next Supper, and a super episode of Trying Stuff with Sprague Soups

Episode Summary

In this episode we talk about the latest research from the Dalhousie Agri-Food Analytics Lab and their Salmon Report, the potato crisis in PEI, updated on the Dairy Price Increase file, understanding the impacts to the food industry of the BC environmental crisis, and an exclusive opportunity for Sylvain to be on the other side of the mic with food critic, restaurant industry observer Cory Mintz all about his new book "The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them, and What Comes After".

Episode Notes

Welcome to the The Food Professor podcast episode 36, I’m Michael LeBlanc, and I’m Sylvain  Charlebois!  

In this episode we talk about the latest research from the Dalhousie Agri-Food Analytics Lab and their Salmon Report, the potato crisis in PEI, updated on the Dairy Price Increase file, understanding the impacts to the food industry of the BC environmental crisis, and an exclusive opportunity for Sylvain to be on the other side of the mic with food critic, restaurant industry observer Cory Mintz all about his new book "The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them, and What Comes After".

If you liked what you heard you can follow us on Apple iTunes , Spotify or your favourite podcast platform, please rate and review, and be sure and recommend to a friend or colleague in the grocery, foodservice,  or restaurant industry.   

Sylvain Charlebois

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is a Professor in food distribution and policy in the Faculties of Management and Agriculture at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He is also the Senior Director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab, also located at Dalhousie University. Before joining Dalhousie, he was affiliated with the University of Guelph’s Arrell Food Institute, which he co-founded. Known as “The Food Professor”, his current research interest lies in the broad area of food distribution, security and safety. Google Scholar ranks him as one of the world's most cited scholars in food supply chain management, food value chains and traceability.

He has authored five books on global food systems, his most recent one published in 2017 by Wiley-Blackwell entitled “Food Safety, Risk Intelligence and Benchmarking”. He has also published over 500 peer-reviewed journal articles in several academic publications. Furthermore, his research has been featured in several newspapers and media groups, including The Lancet, The Economist, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, NBC, ABC, Fox News, Foreign Affairs, the Globe & Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Star.

Dr. Charlebois sits on a few company boards, and supports many organizations as a special advisor, including some publicly traded companies. Charlebois is also a member of the Scientific Council of the Business Scientific Institute, based in Luxemburg. Dr. Charlebois is a member of the Global Food Traceability Centre’s Advisory Board based in Washington DC, and a member of the National Scientific Committee of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in Ottawa.

Michael LeBlanc  is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice.   He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career.  Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast,       The Voice of Retail, plus        Global E-Commerce Tech Talks  and       The Food Professor  with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois.  You can learn more about Michael       here  or on       LinkedIn. 


Have a safe week everyone!



Reminder to everyone about our YouTube channel where you can watch the entire first part of our podcast with bonus content and the whole Trying Stuff segment


Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:04

Welcome to The Food Professor podcast, episode 37. I'm Michael LeBlanc.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:09

And I'm Sylvain Charlebois.

Michael LeBlanc  00:11

Sylvain, we have, we got a great episode coming up. We've got, of course, our Trying Stuff segment. This segment, we've got Sprague soups, from a smooth Canadian soup, what a great fact, you know,

Sylvain Charlebois  00:23

Six generations. Six.

Michael LeBlanc  00:25

Like, like six, like it's an incredible story, we'll talk about it and there's interesting things happening in the category. And of course, we'll be trying a couple of their soups. So, stay tuned for that. And we've got a great guest, Corey Mintz, who let me find his book here.

Sylvain Charlebois  00:39

I got his book, right here.

Michael LeBlanc  00:41

We got this book. There we go, Corey Mintz. And it's funny, because you get to be on the other side. He used to ask you questions as a food reporter. And now we get to ask him questions about this great book. 

Sylvain Charlebois  00:52


Michael LeBlanc  00:52

I’ve had a chance to go through it ‘The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them, and What Comes Next’. So we’ll be getting

Sylvain Charlebois  00:57

So much information in there, I was.

Michael LeBlanc  01:00

Oh my God.

Sylvain Charlebois  01:00

I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed.

Michael LeBlanc  01:02

Yeah, and it's, you know it's, it's I'll mention this to Corey. But he starts the book. And it's a very familiar story for me. He talks about talking, having a meeting arranged with a restauranteur, and then it all gets canceled on March 16. I had a podcast interview scheduled with the same restaurant entrepreneur the same day. 

Sylvain Charlebois  01:22

Are you kidding. Wow.

Michael LeBlanc  01:23

It was all, it was all coming out of the Restaurants Canada Trade Show, right? So.

Sylvain Charlebois  01:29

Of course.

Michael LeBlanc  01:30

I lined up a bunch of interviews, and they all collapsed. 

Sylvain Charlebois  01:32


Michael LeBlanc  01:32

So, it just I like the first page of the book. I'm like, oh, my God, you and I were on, you know, very similar paths. He was going to be on our podcast, actually. So.

Sylvain Charlebois  01:41

And, and further I have to say some of the language like I've spoken to Corey before but some the language is pretty you know, you know, it's, it's consistent what you could you could hear in a kitchen, although.

Michael LeBlanc  01:52


Sylvain Charlebois  01:53

Of a restaurant, I'll put it that way. 

Michael LeBlanc  01:55

Let's jump into the news. So, first of all, let's talk about research from the lab. You're talking about salmon, I love salmon. And the industry loves salmon because it's one of the, one of the proteins that is perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner protein like it, it is.

Sylvain Charlebois  02:10

Yeah, absolutely.

Michael LeBlanc  02:11

Such an interesting thing. I mean, you mentioned on a, I forget which, which podcast it was on. Oh, it was when you were on Remarkable Retail with, with Dave Marcotte, who said You know, it's a bit weird we feed salmon, chicken. And so, you know, when I looked through your research, a lot of people are confused about salmon. But what did you learn from the research? Because it was about, it was asking consumers about their understanding of salmon and why don't we talk about that. And, and what you discovered in in the research?

Sylvain Charlebois  02:39

Well, data is showing that wild is still it. I think everyone actually appreciates wild but the reality when you walk into a grocery store, most of the time 90% of time, you're going to be offered farmed salmon. That's basically it. So, we wanted to dig deeper into how much people know about agriculture and farm salmon. By the way, Michael, the reason why we released this study now it's because 2022 is the international year of aquaculture and artisan fisheries. 

So, basically a couple months ahead of, of that year, we thought of actually starting a conversation about salmon. And our results have been published in, in different, different newspapers, which is great. But the point is that people are mystified. I mean, they don't necessarily understand a cultural that well. And when you say that it is common practice to feed salmon, chicken and canola and other stuff. People are little bit shocked. 

I remember when I was moderating a panel in October in Wolfville. And I had a couple of experts in the salmon industry, commenting on the future of, of sustainable production in the sector, one of the CEOs said, "Well, we actually feed salmon, chicken". And, and you could feel in the audience, that people were surprised and frankly a little bit shocked. And I was shocked too because I probed further that well how did that happen? 

With the cheap proteins and available protein and between you and I it's not the best parts of the chicken that is fed to salmon. It's the rest quote unquote. So, feathers, beaks, legs, all that stuff. So, it's, you kind of wonder what's going on there. But that, that is approved by the CFI. It's, of course you there are there are restrictions, clear restrictions. And but I must say it really got a lot of conversations going as a result of that. But I think we need to do a better job explaining how aquaculture works because I received tons of emails from people just telling me a lot of things. And frankly, I wasn't even sure it was true because it's, it's still, it's a bit of an obscure industry. 

I don't know if you know much about aquaculture, Michael. But next week I'm visiting for the first time in my career, I'm visiting a, a facility where salmon is actually produced, and I've never been invited before until now. And so, so I'm visiting a Sustainable Blue. It's close to Wolfville, right here. The CEO's name is Kirk Havercroft. A Great guy. So, he will be giving me a tour of the facilities. I'll be asking questions about feed. But he does not feed salmon, chicken. So, I want to know why and why are we actually doing this in the industry overall. 

But I do want to thank my colleague for the study, Stefanie Colombo, who's a Research Chair in, in seafood nutrition. She's, she's amazing. And she's very knowledgeable, really. And she knows this stuff, and probably will invite her on our podcast at some point in the New Year. But she really just unpacked the whole issue of aquaculture. All the mess related to aquaculture. And certainly if, if anyone wants more information about salmon production, I would contact Stefanie Colombo at the Faculty of Aquaculture, and now she's, she's just amazing. And the work that she's, she's doing with her team is, is really influencing practices in the industry.

Michael LeBlanc  06:19

Yeah, yeah. All right. Well, let's, let's move on from salmon. Let's talk about dairy. It, catch us up on what's going on in dairy. Now, I saw you on social media kind of wrapping on a few people's doors saying, you know, I'd really like more information on I can't really get a call back. So, and, and, and the second thing is, last week, the big announcement from our friends at Lactalis. Mark Taylor who has been a guest on our show that they're, they’re, they're going to try and get through a 15% increase to the grocers. That doesn't mean they're going to be successful, by the way. But talk, let's talk about (inaudible).

Sylvain Charlebois  06:51

It's about their strategy, right. It's a, it's a poking strategy. But it's kind of, it's kind of odd that, that Lactalis came up with the same number I did. I did say.

Michael LeBlanc  07:05


Sylvain Charlebois  07:05

15% many times and they came in with 15%, as you say, doesn't necessarily mean it will happen. But pressures are there. I mean, costs are going up for Lactalis, for Saputo, for restaurant operators for everyone. Really, I mean, depending of how they do how they manage their costs, it, it either will impact prices of retail, or you may see more consolidation. Or you may see more companies shop south go south to buy their dairy proteins. And it has happened before. But what's funny about the CDC, I've been in discussion with them. And I never got a reply ever, until I tweeted to the Minister of Agriculture. 

Michael LeBlanc  07:55

Very direct. Very direct.

Sylvain Charlebois  07:56

Very, I mean, listen, I I'm trying to contact this Crown Corporation we have. You're responsible for this Crown Corporation.

Michael LeBlanc  08:03

We pay, we pay their salaries.

Sylvain Charelbois  08:04

We pay, we pay the salaries of 80 employees there what's going on? And I kid you not Michael, within hours, I started to get replies and replies from the CDC. So, since then, I've been, it's been, it's been helpful. But obviously, so I did get the names of accounting firms that are supporting the CDC. But both firms have actually said that they can't really disclose anything. Yeah, I have to talk to this CDC. So, that's one thing. The other thing that's happening right now is that they are asking me to fill out a report in order to have access to that primary data. So, and I should have been.

Michael LeBlanc  08:44

Freedom of access report. Freedom of access report. 

Sylvain Charlebois  08:46

It's actually a research report. So, as a researcher, you kind of explain what you want to do with the data. And then you submit it to the CDC. And so, we'll see what happens. I haven't had a time obviously to fill out the form. It's a lengthy form. But at least there's, there's some sign of life which I appreciate.

Michael LeBlanc  09:05

Yeah, you got some momentum right, you are getting some answers.

Sylvain Charlebois  09:07


Michael LeBlanc  09:07

Like one way, shape or the other. I mean.

Sylvain Charlebois  09:09

And I, and I must say I appreciate that, to be honest, because without like not even a reply in two and a half weeks seriously, come on. And but at least I'm getting some love and there is a discussion going on between us and, and the CDC. And If I tell, I tell you what, Michael, if we can get access to that primary data, this is going to be great for us because we'll be able to really dig deep into now how things are decided. And you probably saw a Global news report this morning. We do know now that the Dairy Farmers of Canada were requesting a much higher increase. And so, we believe it's over 15% at farm gate, not 8.4.

Michael LeBlanc  09:53

Wow, wow, wow, yeah.

Sylvain Charlebois  09:54

Can you imagine 15?

Michael LeBlanc  09:56

Well, it actually. it actually is a good segue to my next thought, not question is, is, you know this back to is Stats Canada measuring price inflation properly in the food category? Because I believe your food report for your Food Price Index report comes out on, don't want to say.

Sylvain Charlebois  10:14

December 9, yep.

Michael LeBlanc  10:15

December 9, so we have an episode, I believe on December 8. So, maybe you'll give us a bit of a preview or maybe we'll talk about it in the subsequent one.

Sylvain Charlebois  10:22

Absolutely well, we were, we were planning to release it on December 8, but I have a bit of a personal rule on December 8, which is John Lennon's death. So, I don't want to, it's just one of those things out of respect, December 1, for AIDS Day, December 8, and December 6 for Polytechnique as well. So, those are days we don't release the study for.

Michael LeBlanc  10:46

Well, actually, now that I think of it, if I look at my calendar, we record on the 8th and release on the 9th. So, I think it'll all come together. So.

Sylvain Charlebois  10:51

Yeah, absolutely, you'll get a copy ahead of time.

Michael LeBlanc  10:54

Beautiful we'll dive, we'll dive into that. And now I want to get to our Trying Stuff segment. Well, one thing before we get to trying stuff, what's going on in PEI with their potatoes? Like I'm reading some potato.

Sylvain Charlebois  11:03

Oh my God.

Michael LeBlanc  11:04

Some potato fungus issues something, what's going on?

Sylvain Charlebois  11:08

I'll tell you. I mean, I feel for our potato farmers in PEI. I, I think, so two farms are affected by a wart, which is, it's been around for 20 years on the island. And they've been very careful, the science was actually taking care of, of both situations, to be honest, but politics are now involved. And, and so the Federal Minister, Madame Bibeau felt it was in the best interest of the country to basically issue a ban on the one province, which is PEI to save everyone else. So, I, I it's not, it's not being accepted quite slightly on the island to be honest and Mike, so regardless of who's right and who's wrong, okay. My concern is the reputation of, of the island itself, the food island of Canada. I actually think that this could be damaging for Prince Edward Island's reputation when it comes to potato growing, potato production. That's my biggest concern right now. And I'm hoping that the Federal Minister is doing everything she can to, to make sure that the ban actually is lifted. Those two farms, I mean, we, they've been working on this since November 2, they could have isolated the two farms no none of these potatoes would have left the island regardless.

Michael LeBlanc  12:30

Yeah. It is an island after all.

Sylvain Charlebois  12:32

But apparently according to the Minister it wasn't enough.

Michael LeBlanc  12:35

All right. Well, we let's, let's keep track on that. Let's hope things work out well.

Sylvain Charlebois  12:38

Yeah, absolutely. Potato grows and on the island all the best seriously, this is, this is, this is their canola versus China situation. This is like mad cow for them. This is like hitting the dairy sector in Ontario. This is a big deal for Islanders.

Michael LeBlanc  12:55

Alright, let's, let's jump in now to our great interview with Corey Mintz. So, you know him as I said. He has interviewed you. This is our chance to interview him and he's talks about in his book, many of the things that we've talked about.

Sylvain Charlebois  13:07

We're gonna grill him.

Michael LeBlanc  13:11

Alright, let's get to that. 

Corey, welcome to The Food Professor podcast. How are you doing this morning?

Corey Mintz  13:15

I'm doing great. I'm full of caffeine. How are you?

Michael LeBlanc  13:18

I'm, I'm full of soup, actually. 

Sylvain Charlebois  13:20

Yeah, I am full of soup.

Michael LeBlanc  13:20

Sylvain and I just finished having some soup. We're, we're excited to have you join us. And where are we finding you today? We're, Sylvain is in Halifax. I'm in Toronto. Where are we finding you today?

Corey Mintz  13:31

You are finding me in East St. Paul, which is a suburb of Winnipeg. I live in Winnipeg, and my mother and father-in-law, Gordon also live in East St. Paul. And I dropped my daughter off here in the morning. So, I decided to stick around here to do our talk.

Michael LeBlanc  13:45

Wonderful. Well, thanks again for joining us. And, and Sylvain and you know each other, but are from different sides of the mic. Right, Sylvain?

Sylvain Charlebois  13:53

Yeah, absolutely. I, Corey and I, we've spoken several times over the years. I can't remember the last time but it's been a while. So, I'm very I was very pleased to see Corey accept our invitation to talk about his new book, which was super interesting.

Michael LeBlanc  14:06

Yeah, it's super. I like what you did there. Sylvain, it's very clever.

Sylvain Charlebois  14:09

You, you picked it up, heh. 

Michael LeBlanc  14:11

I liked what you did there. Corey, why don't we, why don't we jump right in. Tell us first of all, before we get in this great book, that you've just written? Tell us about yourself, your background, and what you do and your connection to the food industry and restaurants.

Corey Mintz  14:23

I guess I started cooking. In, in terms of my career. I went to cooking school when I was about 20. And I went because I didn't know what else to do with myself. I had, I had dropped out of high school without telling anyone and didn't tell anyone for another 20 years. I was living with my girlfriend who had scoliosis and she had surgery, spinal surgery and was in bed for, for many months. And I took care of her and I just I learned that's when I learned to cook. You know, because somebody had to make nutritious meals and I experienced what many people discover at some point in their food journey. Which is the transformative power of food and the ability to communicate love through food. 

And you just, you know, at a point in my life where I was confused, lost, you know, a young man of maybe 19, or 20, and already had a feeling of failure. Just discovering that I was good at something just invigorated me. So, I, that's why I went to cooking school. And I cooked for a number of years, about six or seven years, and in all kinds of, of kitchens and catering and vegan meal delivery, high end Italian, low end, vegetarian. I was a chef briefly of a small vegetarian restaurant in Toronto, and I reached the end of that career knowing I was never cut out for it really, like I was never going to be great. I worked with enough people who I could tell you're going to be great, you're going to be great. And it was just at a certain point, it was time to get out. I realized that I'd reached the end of the road. And I thought, well, I always wanted to be a writer, maybe I'll try that. Yada, yada, yada, I became the restaurant critic for the Toronto Star within a year of that.

Sylvain Charlebois  16:10


Corey Mintz  16:10

With, within a year of like cooking at a dinner theater three nights a week and saying, I got to try something new. I got that gig and it changed my life and changed my career. And I did that for a couple years, you know, a dream job restaurant critic segued into column writing. And eventually, after I did a story that I'd wanted to do since my first day, as a writer, which is about this, this sort of paradox, in which the fancier the restaurant, the less the cooks are paid, I finally was able to do that story and do it properly, for the Globe and Mail. And once that was published, my career kind of like the steering wheel just took a hard turn. That was my focus, not just labor, but the variety of systemic issues involved in food and restaurants.

Michael LeBlanc  16:58

Let me just say, I want to unpack one thing you said like, what is it that, that you said I'm never be or I'm not going to be the chef? What is it that you see and people that makes them, you know, a great chef, what is it, what is that, that’s a thing? That you, that you observed and, and what is it that you would characterize as, wow, you're a great chef, and you're going to be a great chef?

Corey Mintz  17:21

Well, at the time, I mean, I, I was working with almost everybody was, was younger than me in the kitchen. First of all, there was one guy who started who was 10 years younger than me. And we were at the same level and I could see him already climbing past me so fast, you know, as I sort of, as I got a promotion from garmanshay to antipasto. By that same time, he had worked every station, you know. And I could look around and, and see, it's not just about talent, or you're going to be this quote unquote, great Chef, but like, you have the talent, the drive and the commitment and the ambition, you know. Like when, when I go home, I'm tired from my 12-hour day. I want to watch back then I was like, I want to watch The Daily Show, and I could sleep, and wake up and try to brace myself for doing this all over again. And they were going home and like spending two hours reading cookbooks.

Michael LeBlanc  18:19


Sylvain Charlebois  18:19


Corey Mintz  18:20

You know blogs. But and everything was about food and getting to the next level. And sure enough, all those people are in positions of authority in a variety of kitchens all over the world.

Sylvain Charlebois  18:30

That the, the one thing if I may, I mean, I'll just pretend Corey is not talking to us right now. There's lots of great critics in Canada. But what's unique about Corey’s approach, I think, and, and you can pick it up while reading his new book, ‘The Next Supper’ is that he's a critic that really sees the big picture. You know, beyond the food. 

Michael LeBlanc  18:53


Sylvain Charlebois  18:53

Corey will look at humans and humans interacting amongst each other. And he will look at the economy. How it's evolving or not evolving. And it makes his, his, his work very interesting to read.

Michael LeBlanc  19:06

Well, and it makes the book very interesting to read and the book is, ‘The Next Supper: The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them and What Comes After’. So, congratulations on writing a book. 

Corey Mintz  19:15

Yeah, yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  19:15

That's, that's a heavy lift, man. Tell us about the journey about writing the book and why you thought there was a you know, a space in the shelf for what you had to say in a book form.

Corey Mintz  19:25

You don't realize when you say the book title I loud that I've been, I've been saying it wrong for. I've been saying ‘The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them, and What Comes Next’. Although, I, I think that's probably a, a pedantic thing to pick out. I guess they mean, the same thing.

Michael LeBlanc  19:46


Corey Mintz  19:46

I mean, I try to look at the big picture. And I guess the way the book came about is in the challenge of trying to think big about all of these issues and me getting to the point after three, four, five years writing about all these problems, and coming up against two limitations; 

One is, I mean, the budget of Canadian newspapers and magazines, you know, they would say we would love a big reported feature about how all of the halibut on the west coast of Canada's being privatized, we can afford to pay $600 for that. So, how much time, how many days, how many weeks, can you afford to spend to do that kind of reporting? When that's the budget you had, and I was coming up at $600, by the way, is usually about double what people would offer, you know. So, I was coming up against that limitation. And also, just like the scope, I mean, you know, an editor's going to say, can you do it in 1000 words. And you, you can't, right? You can't tell, you can't tell four seasons of The Wire, in a Christmas special. 

At a certain point, you, you, you reached the stage where your work or the conversations you're having with people or talking with editors, looks like the conspiracy theorist with the corkboard with all the red string. And you are saying, "You got to look at the big picture". And all these things are connected, at which point you either need to, you know, calm down, take some medication, talk to your therapist, realize that you're, you know, you're being paranoid, or you need to show your work, you know, you need to actually show, here's how all these things are connected. And let me present it to you in a digestible, readable user-friendly format, which is, you know, the stage in which you go, ‘Okay, I need to, I need to write a book’. 

And I was fortunate enough to connect with friends who advised me and, and, and an editor and a publisher and an agent who helped me shape those sometimes, sketchy ramblings into something that is, I think, a cohesive narrative, and a structure, you know, the way we break down the book into a variety of eight different restaurant genres to say, here are restaurants that all operate very differently, restaurant segments, and let's look at some of the issues that orbit them.

Sylvain Charlebois  21:58

All right, your book does read a little bit like a diary. But you do provide some hard historical and economic facts. I mean, you can feel that you, you have a lot of experience, you've been around with anecdotes. You talk about specific people without necessarily mentioning their names. Great stories overall. But you do often come back to this issue of salaries, welfare in the industry, per se, and they talk about menu prices. And this, what I would call this, this social contract that, that should exist or could exist between society and, and the industry itself. Do you think I mean, is this a manifesto? Is your book a manifesto about a broken contract? Or was it, was it ever there?

Corey Mintz  22:51

I mean, I think part of the answer is, is in the way you phrased the question. I, I think it's, it's built on a, on a bit of a shady premise. You know, I think the, the industry is, is the foundation is on exploitation. You know, I mean, the whole imbalance in wages. And the tipping system is structured around the idea that, you know, pre, pre-restaurants before we had a hospitality industry, we had servants in North America, we had slave labor, we had enslaved people who work for free. And we turned that into a system where we could avoid actually having to pay for the labor of the people. We need to do the work. I mean, that is a pretty sandy foundation on which to build a business. Yeah, I don't think it was, it was ever fair. 

And I had to, you know, just yesterday, I got an email from a hospitality professor of food and beverage teacher at George Brown, my old my alma mater. And he said, and I thought, oh, boy, this cooking school teachers going to be because I used to get these. I used to get these messages from people, I don't get them anymore, but from sort of chefs who would say like, oh why are you talking about the bad stuff? There's so much good in this, in this industry. And I don't get those letters anymore. But he sent me this letter that said, in a para, you know what, I have it here. He says, "the restaurant business model is and has been broken for a long time. There is no business in any industry that can be sustainable in any way, as long as there is a legislated minimum wage set below the poverty line". 

And that, and that's been a fact in all our lifetimes. You know, if, if the idea is the government has set up this economic scheme where they say you can pay people not, not only less than the poverty line, but less than the legal minimum, which is already below the poverty line. And then customers will fulfill this fantasy where they're, they're, they're the boss and they get to decide how much your workers earn. I mean, that, that is not a broken system. That's a you know, that's a, that's a thing that where you got it from the store, the pieces weren't all in the box.

Sylvain Charlebois  25:02

Yeah, no. Well, like it comes out a lot in your book. You also talk about the stagiaire system in Europe. I, I feel you're not, you're not a big fan of this. So, so I guess I, how do you how do you attract talent beyond, you know, a, a system in which you, you volunteer, I guess you're not paid to work in a venue but you're, you're aspiring to become a, a great chef. What, what will be the ideal portal for people looking at this industry?

Corey Mintz  25:39

Well, I mean, at the risk of being hypocritical, I think two things can be true once and sometimes when I get, when I hear from people who are saying like, ‘I'm a young person, I'm interested in a cooking career, a food writing career’. I will say much as I am, I don't think the sort of institutional level staging where you're running a restaurant where you need the free labor as is common at the quote unquote, world's best restaurants in Europe. I will encourage people to go do that, because it's not something that's available. If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever else. You can't just go knock on a door of most professions and say, ‘I have a good attitude and willing to work. I'm humble, will you let me spend a day or a week here?’ You can do that, and at the very least, yes, you can find out if this is for you. Or you can find out if you do that a couple places how the environment differs. What's, what's unhealthy about that is the idea that these are, you know, when people go and they do that for a month or two months, or six months or a year at some of these places. That creates opportunities, that's only available for those people who are able to do that, right? But who are the people?

Michael LeBlanc  26:47


Corey Mintz  26:47

Who have six months to work for free, and to pay for their own room and board in Spain or wherever it is, you know, there's just such an economic advantage to a certain segment of employees. I mean, I think the way that you attract and retain talent is, it's not a mystery we're starting, you know, The Globe and Mail had this funny headline the other day.

Michael LeBlanc  27:09

Oh yeah, I saw that.

Corey Mintz  27:10

That was like.

Michael LeBlanc  27:11

You know, we came up with a magic solution. The magic solution in the industry.

Sylvain Charlebois  27:12

We've, we've, you took us, it took us.

Corey Mintz  27:14


Michael LeBlanc  27:17

Pay people more.

Sylvain Charlebois  27:18

Pay people money. Yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  27:19

As, as if, as if, someone had finally discovered the alchemy of turning lead into gold. 

Corey Mintz  27:24

It turns out that paying and compensating stuff fairly. And I'll tell you it's not you know, this is, I know that you trade more in data than anecdotal evidence, but you know, I've spent six or seven years talking with people about these issues. And I've definitely spent the last two years focusing on the book, and one of the things I've focused on is like, ‘Hey, I can't write this book and just say, here are all these problems and’.

Michael LeBlanc  27:24

Right, right, right.

Sylvain Charlebois  27:46


Corey Mintz  27:47

I’m Mr. Bad News, right? I have to look for solutions, and in doing so, and solutions that diners can support the way they choose to dine. But in doing so, you know, I, I found restauranteurs operating under a variety of different structures that are, that are a different or, or a challenge to the old hierarchy or orthodoxy. And when I talk to those restauranteurs when I send them a text or a message saying, what's up, how are you doing with staffing. We're having no problems. All our people are here, they're happy, we're growing. And we, have no problem attracting and we have no problem retaining people, if, if anything this one, this one, this couple of restauranteurs in Boston, they were saying, you know, they opened with this sort of open book management, profit sharing model. And as a result, the whole purpose was to create better jobs that people wanted to stay in, because they were aware of all these issues and as a result. The restaurant just kept growing. Because the attrition problem of having am half staff turnover, they have the opposite. They're like, our people stay with us. And they keep getting better. So, we have to create new opportunities for them. So, we opened a second restaurant, not because we're like, oh, we're big, we want to expand our brand. But because we're like, well, this is the only way to hold on to our great people is to create new opportunities for them.

Sylvain Charlebois  29:01

The, you're, I have got to say your book is gutsy. One example. Your, your BS detector section.

Corey Mintz  29:12

That was wild.

Sylvain Charlebois  29:13

It is wild, I mean you're you drop names, like you drop company names. Like it's really audacious. So, I guess, do you think the industry can be believable at some point, beyond the BS that we often see.

Corey Mintz  29:30

I, I mean, two things about that one, it's not that I name names, it's that I just quote the corporate social responsibility.

Sylvain Charlebois  29:40

I know, I know. Yeah.

Corey Mintz  29:41

This is material that they have published online, right? This isn't me doing.

Sylvain Charlebois  29:44

Make it so obvious, though.

Corey Mintz  29:46

Yeah. They, they published these things and not like 30 years ago, like six months ago, it's, it's, it's wild, to the extent that I, I was fortunate. I got to record the audio book myself, which was so much fun. And over a week of recording when I was reading those, heres, you know, here's what this company Buffalo Wild Wings says on their corporate social responsibility pages. I heard the audio engineers, gasp. They're like, they're like looking at the page to his does it really say that? And then listeners, you'll just have to go. Either go look it up or read it in the book. It is. It is wild. But, but the answer to your question is, is embedded in there in the sense that like, while I was looking at those pages, trying to say, how can I come up with some sort of formula in which I can sort of share with the reader like, here's how to read these pages, here's how to decipher them. And I never expected to find anything as shameful, as said, Buffalo Wild Wings page. But at the same time, I never expected to find anything as admirable and best in class as the Cheesecake Factory page. In fact, I, I repeatedly while I was in the book proposal stage, I kept using Cheesecake Factory as a, as a placeholder for like, I'll do something with them. Just because I think the name is so funny, I want to eat. Like to me, that seems like the perfect.

Michael LeBlanc  31:05


Corey Mintz  31:05

Sort of big chain restaurant to focus on. And I was surprised in speaking with sustainability experts when they would drop the name of Cheesecake Factory. And they say actually, they're one of the people doing the best jobs. And when you look at what they're doing, you see why. They are, they're not just saying we tried to source sustainable, they have this list of goals that they're trying to meet of dates that they plan to meet them of how far they are to them. And if you go and you look at that stuff you go, oh this is what you have to do, because when you read that page, that builds trust, right? I mean, it's, it's, not shady, it's transparent. And I think that's, that's how you, that's how you earn it. I don't know. I mean, it's a question of like, is it not possible for restaurant brands to get our trust or to keep our trust like, and the way they usually get it is through flimflam, right? It's through the sort of charisma of their, either their charming chefs, or their sort of marketing, you know, branding strategies of saying, you know, implying, like, we're good people stick with us. 

Michael LeBlanc  31:37


Corey Mintz  31:41

And I think probably, there was a lot of chefs in smaller restaurants that coasted on the sort of nose to tail era of saying, like, well, seeing as we serve whole animals, you can just kind of trust like, everything else is on the up and up. Which I'm not accusing anyone. But I think, I know that a lot of diner’s kind of made that assumption for a number of years until they went, oh, it turns out that's not the case that the only way to achieve trust is through transparency.

Michael LeBlanc  32:38

You know, your, your writing style, the book, and our discussion reminds me of a, of one of my favorite authors of writers of commentary Anthony Bourdain, and at the end of Anthony's work or shows as much as he was critical or optimistic. He always ended with this optimism of restaurants in the food industry. And it's an, it's, its power, its magic to change and to bring light to dark areas to revitalize neighborhoods. Do you, do you see optimism coming out of this? As you know, as you say, in the book, you're, you're not just chronicling the flaws. But you're also have solutions out of all this out of all the work out of all the in-depth work that you've done that went into this book? Can you extract from that optimism for the sector? And, and where does it lead you as you as you look forward?

Corey Mintz  33:25

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Bourdain was, you know, for, for people who only knew him as a TV personality. He was a great writer, and, and that first book, it certainly had an impact on me, as it did on many.

Michael LeBlanc  33:40


Corey Mintz  33:40

Young, young cooks of that generation and, and subsequent generations. But that book was certainly the, the, the, the narrative was, he was being a firebrand, right? He was.

Michael LeBlanc  33:53

Yeah, yeah.

Corey Mintz  33:54

He was writing a tell all, and it was kind of a burn it all down type of thing, while still very much working within the industry. 

Michael LeBlanc  34:00


Corey Mintz  34:00

And I knew going into this, that, that couldn't be the objective. One, because was just you can't do better than Bourdain and, and two, because that's not constructive. And people are looking for answers. And I went looking for answers. And I feel like I found a lot along the way. But at the very end, I, I found more reason for hope beyond what's in the book, because we finally had to put it to bed at some point about six months ago. And the thing that's happened since has been well, one thing that was happening pre, pre, pre then and it's been happening for the last, since the dawn of the pandemic, which is consumer awareness, you know, I mean.

Michael LeBlanc  34:41


Corey Mintz  34:42

My, my ambition with the book was to get people to become aware of some of these issues to get them to believe me that I was not just chicken little-ling and to care about these things and, and the pandemic in its, in its disastrous effect on the hospitality industry. Just put high heat on all these issues and brought them bubbling up to the surface where the public could see the, the income inequality where the public could see.

The exploitative nature of third-party delivery companies. So, that's happened. So, now you have a much more engaged dining class. And at the same time, you have a much more empowered working class in the way that five years ago, six years ago, when I started focusing on labor and restaurants, you know, cooks still, it was almost everybody just wanted to talk to me off the record, everybody was afraid of not just losing their job, but being labeled an agitator, a complainer, and that is completely changed, right? I mean, the beginning of the pandemic workers got a case of’ the fuck its’ and they said, ‘You know, I, I, I'm doing something else for a living and going back home’, whatever the reason was, they were like, ‘I'm not afraid to talk shit’. 

And since then, you know, it was no surprise talking with workers over the last year, that many of them were not going back. Because once I put the, you know, once I was done, the last edit of the book, I immediately got back in touch with everybody to say, "How's it going, what's going on"? And I was hearing from like, a good 30% of people saying, like, ‘I'm not going back, or I'm going back, but two thirds, you know, a third of my friends are not going back’. So, it was no shock when the industry found themselves operating on skeleton crews, and you know, fast food, franchise operators tried to drive that narrative that oh, people are lazy. They don't want to work anymore. 

But the reality is there's a, there's a there's a subtle workers revolt. And I, I think hospitality employ, employer employees have the opportunity to negotiate in a way that they never have before they have leverage. And so, my optimism comes from the hope that workers will kind of and this is the piece I wrote for The Globe last week. We'll see the opportunity not merely to get two or three extra dollars an hour, because that's now on the table, but to say, okay, if employers are now desperate in the way that they never have been before. Let's talk about all the other things we want to see change about the industry. That are not just about money, or financial benefits, but about getting your schedule two weeks in advance and having HR policies. There's a real, there's a real opportunity in the, the empowerment of workers and the awareness of diners, particularly if they can kind of connect, you know, whether it's through social media or just that public awareness. The idea that they can support each other and say, hey, we actually give a shit about this industry changing.

Sylvain Charlebois  35:09


Michael LeBlanc  35:22

Well, it's right back to Sylvain’s point about the social contract. Listen, this has been you know, I think we could, Sylvain we could have this discussion for many hours because this is.

Sylvain Charlebois  37:37

You know absolutely.

Michael LeBlanc  37:42

You know, such a great discussion. Corey you're such a great, great observer and chronicled the industry and we really appreciate you joining us on the podcast once again. Our guests Corey Mintz and the book is ‘The Next Supper; The End of Restaurants as We Knew Them and What Comes either Next’ or After we'll, we'll you know maybe you can change the title.

Sylvain Charlebois  38:00

And, and Corey, 10 years from now we'll invite you back to see if you were right.

Michael LeBlanc  38:05

I don't know I don't feel like we're going to see if he's right. We're going to see if the industry has changed actually, I think that's.

Sylvain Charlebois  38:11

Right exactly.

Michael LeBlanc  38:12

I mean, there's not the book really rings true I encourage everyone to go buy it. We will put links in the show notes. So, Corey, thanks again for joining us. a real treat.

Corey Mintz  38:19

A real pleasure anytime. 

Michael LeBlanc  38:20

Well, welcome to another episode edition of Trying Stuff, where Sylvain and I under no obligation, brands are sending us stuff it's not a sponsored part of the episode it's just us, a) having lunch together and, b) you know, we get to discover new products. And hopefully maybe give them a little bit of sunlight in the industry. That's also our objective as well.

Sylvain Charlebois  38:43

Our Trying Stuff segment. Michael, is, is like having a date you and I but somewhere someone else pays the bill.

Michael LeBlanc  38:52

Well, and thanks to all the brands who sent product in and if anyone would like to send us more. Please do and, and we basically we've got a bunch of them and we try them in the order we get them just to be fair.

Sylvain Charlebois  39:04


Michael LeBlanc  39:04

And so, we've got a bunch of stuff. So, today we are talking about a soup, Canadian soup, Sprague soup.

Sylvain Charlebois  39:11

I got Simply Bisque, a tomato bisque with roasted red peppers and cream. And also, I'll be trying the organic soup Tuscany style minestrone. What about you?

Michael LeBlanc  39:27

I will be trying the Triple Bean Chili. Love chili and the Simply Green which is with broccoli with cream, coconut and curry. I'm not a big soup guy. I have got to admit, I don't eat a lot of soup I make, I make a powerhouse French onion soup. I used to eat soups. I eat less of them now. You know a bit of a preview to the review. These are amazing. Yeah, what a backstory. You know, let's talk about the product. Let's look at the packaging is it, yeah, okay, here's right off the top, pull tabs.

Sylvain Charlebois  39:57

Oh, that is just lovely. Yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  39:59

I love that, because I'm essentially lazy. And you know, the packaging is fantastic. It's very interesting. But the backstory to this soup. I, I didn't really have any idea. It goes back to hundred. You know.

Sylvain Charlebois  40:14

1925, 1925.

Michael LeBlanc  40:15

1925 and, and it is currently run and operated by Rick Sprague who's the latest member of the family. It's made in Belleville, Ontario. 

Sylvain Charlebois  40:25

And that's a lovely place. Yeah, 

Michael LeBlanc  40:26

It's, it's one I think it's one of the only soups made in,

Sylvain Charlebois  40:29

I have driven by their plants, but I've never actually visited them, unfortunately.

Michael LeBlanc  40:33

Well, I you know, we'll have to rectify that because I, there's not a lot of these plants left in Canada, right. I mean

Sylvain Charlebois  40:38

I know, I know.

Michael LeBlanc  40:38

You know made in Canada. It's very unique. And it's he, you know, what, what I was reading the backstory. And what they've done is focused on organics and whole like they, they said, we listen rightly so we're not going to compete against the Campbell's of the world will let them do what they do. But they really, really focused on ingredients. So, I mean, again, you know, it's not uncommon for us, you know, USDA organic, and just a bunch of labels kosher and, and.

Sylvain Charlebois  41:03

Made serve and the one thing I've noticed, it's all of the cans we received are plant based. 

Michael LeBlanc  41:09


Sylvain Charlebois  41:10

And they are very proud of that. And they're very proud of the fact that they used Saskatchewan grown lentils and pulses, which is really awesome. So, it's truly Canadian. I mean, it's a Belleville based company, but it embraces Canada's commodities overall.

Michael LeBlanc  41:26

Alright, so let's try 

Sylvain Charlebois  41:27

Okay, can we eat now? 

Michael LeBlanc  41:30

Let's try, I'm going to try this. Yeah, what are we doing on this podcast? Alright.

Michael LeBlanc  41:36

So, there is, I'm holding up to the camera. So, for all the, all the folks listening, they have a YouTube channel. Check it out. I'm trying the Simply Green soup with broccoli cream.

Sylvain Charlebois  41:36


Sylvain Charlebois  41:44

My bowl is too big, so I can't I don't want to rant about I'm going to try the Minestrone, Tuscany style minestrone soup first. I'm like you Michael. I'm not a big fan of soup. I like cream but not soup. But this Minestrone soup is amazingly tasty. The, the vegetables they feel fresh. 

Michael LeBlanc  42:06


Sylvain Charlebois  42:07

Like it's not mushy. You know it's fresh. It's a, it's just like it was made yesterday really. But it's in the can.

Michael LeBlanc  42:16

Yeah, listen this broccoli it's, it's got a snap to it, If I could describe it that way like a freshness as you said, but it's also got a bit of seasoning to it. Like I've had broccoli soup before because I like broccoli soup is one of the few that I like. But it's easy to, easy to wreck it and like its broccoli. You know, it's not everybody's thing but this, this with the what is it got? It's got coconut and creamed coconut and curry. The curry just pops enough as there's a little hint of spice on your tongue. Love it.

Sylvain Charlebois  42:43

Did you see their package, Michael? It says, ‘It makes your spoon smile’. I love that.

Michael LeBlanc  42:50

It's making me smile right now, I will tell you.

Sylvain Charlebois  42:52

So, for my bisque, Michael I'm adding a little bit a special remember? These guys.

Michael LeBlanc  43:00


Sylvain Charlebois  43:00

So, I just basically sprinkle some cheese.

Michael LeBlanc  43:03


Sylvain Charlebois  43:03

Over my bisque. So.

Michael LeBlanc  43:05

All right.

Sylvain Charlebois  43:06

Let's see how that works.

Michael LeBlanc  43:07

Thank you to Cracker Barrel for their signature cheese blends. We've got a Trying Stuff review coming up. Next episode, I think on that on the signature ones. Oh, how's that?

Sylvain Charlebois  43:16

Oh my god. 

Michael LeBlanc  43:18


Sylvain Charlebois  43:18

That bisque is amazing plant base. So, roasted red peppers and cream the, the pepper. The red pepper just pops in your mouth it's just great. And I'll be honest with you that added cheese really, is a good addition. Yeah, what about you?

Michael LeBlanc  43:36

Well, I took so I took their triple being chili. And here it is. There's a triple bean chili and I took it over the top. I love eggs. So, I plopped them in.

Sylvain Charlebois  43:46

Ah, oh lovely.

Michael LeBlanc  43:48

I mixed in a couple of eggs. And even though we do have a lot of plant-based eggs that we review on this segment it so happens I love eggs. So let me just give this a try.

Sylvain Charlebois  43:58

So, these are real eggs, right? Real eggs.

Michael LeBlanc  44:01

Real eggs and real chicken.

Sylvain Charlebois  44:02


Michael LeBlanc  44:03

Real Burnbrae, by the way.

Sylvain Charlebois  44:05

What's the store?

Michael LeBlanc  44:06

Oh, they're fantastic. This is just so fantastic. They just go with this chili and again the chili is it's not, it's, it's got it pops with flavor. It's fresh. I love a good chili. 

Sylvain Charlebois  44:17


Michael LeBlanc  44:17

The egg, egg adds just an extra kind of top spin to it.

Sylvain Charlebois  44:21

It wouldn't be my first reaction it wouldn't be my first it wouldn't be the first thing I would do with the, with the two but it's a good idea. Great idea. 

Michael LeBlanc  44:30


Sylvain Charlebois  44:32

But that bisque. I, I think I have fallen in love with that bisque to be honest. It's just when I think of bisque. I think of lobster bisque. Nothing fancy red peppers you know I would it would that excite you but really super tasty. Great stuff. Gluten Free, plant based, all the stuff, very natural.

Michael LeBlanc  44:54

I'm just looking at Rick's background. He's Grant's great grandson fourth generation President. And he steered the business into these natural foods. So, listen, congratulations to Sprague. These are fantastic soups. 

Sylvain Charlebois  45:08


Michael LeBlanc  45:09

You know, run, don't walk and get some off to visit their site. And by the way, go into about us, because they've got a little bit of about us. But then when you go into the backstory of the full story, it's like 10 pages. It's a fantastic.

Sylvain Charlebois  45:21


Michael LeBlanc  45:21

Basically, the history of Canada summed up in this food. So, congratulations.

Sylvain Charlebois  45:25

Their strategy is pretty simple, Michael, they're, they're trying to make a boring category, exciting again. That's basically what they're trying to do. And I can see their point when I taste their products, to be honest. I mean, it's just because when you go you when you go to the soup aisle, it really, it's, it's always it's all familiar. I mean, it's gotten familiar.

Michael LeBlanc  45:48


Sylvain Charlebois  45:48

Too familiar, but now with the packaging with.

Michael LeBlanc  45:51

Yeah, it's great.

Sylvain Charlebois  45:52

Different flavors. Yeah.

Michael LeBlanc  45:53

Well, alright, that's a wrap on this episode, or addition of Trying Stuff. 

Sympathies and all good support out to our friends in BC. From.

Sylvain Charlebois  46:05

Oh, my goodness.

Michael LeBlanc  46:06

An environmental catastrophe. Now, let's focus in on, on farmers. And I had a couple of questions, right off the top and you spent lots of time in, in Saskatchewan, how important is the rail to the food industry and farmers?

Sylvain Charlebois  46:18

Oh, absolutely. Yes, I'll have an op-ed in The Globe. I think it was going to come out tomorrow, Friday about this about our supply chains resiliency, westward. About 70 years ago, the entire world was focused on Europe, we had a global, a Europe centric global economy. So, the St. Lawrence Seaway really served our economy quite well, because Europe was right there. I mean, it helps Ontario, it helped Quebec, us here in the Atlantic. But now things have shifted in Asia. I mean, Asia is really the economy. The growing economy around the world. And that's why I mean, when you think about ports, Vancouver is number one in the country and Prince Rupert is number three after Montreal. It's not it's even busier than Halifax right here. So, when you put things into perspective, those corridors towards Prince Rupert and Vancouver are now more critical than ever. The Port of Vancouver actually sees for well over $12 billion worth of agri-food commodities a year. That's $35 million a day. 

Michael LeBlanc  46:42

Yeah, wow.

Sylvain Charlebois  47:26

That's a lot of food in and out, going in and out.

Michael LeBlanc  47:29

In and out because it going both ways, right? Yeah, it's coming and going.

Sylvain Charlebois  47:32

It’s forced out farmers grains, commodities, beef, whatever. And in ingredients for processors across the country. So, the entire country is affected by what, what has happened in, in BC, unfortunately, but I have to tell you, I mean, I feel for Abbotsford, I feel for the Fraser Valley. As you know, Michael, the Fraser Valley is the breadbasket of, of BC. And so those images, my goodness, they were heartbroking.

Michael LeBlanc  48:03

Those farmers leading the dairy cows in the water. I mean, uh, you know, that seriously, that's got to be one of your pictures of the year. So.

Sylvain Charlebois  48:11


Michael LeBlanc  48:12


Sylvain Charlebois  48:12

And so, I feel that's my biggest concern. So, hopefully, they'll get back into shape. Because I mean, these, these operations are very intensive. You need trucks to go there every single day or else you're wasting a lot you they've lost livestock on top of that, and I've, I've worked on dairy farms when I was a kid. And we had names for cows. I mean, these are pets and so.

Michael LeBlanc  48:37


Sylvain Charlebois  48:38

And that's really heartbreaking to see what was going on there.

Michael LeBlanc  48:42

Well, we send them all the best wishes we possibly can and things look like they're starting to turn around. I mean, there's a lot of resources being put in but the rains, more rains coming so it's getting into the rainy season. So.

Sylvain Charlebois  48:54


Michael LeBlanc  48:55

Anyway, well listen, we wish all the folks wish.

Sylvain Charlebois  48:58

We wish all the best. Absolutely.

Michael LeBlanc  49:01

All right, well, that's a wrap on this episode of The Food Professor reminder to everyone check out our YouTube site because we have some bonus content of our Trying Stuff segment. And we, we kind of chopped our segments down into different segments so you can watch us eat food basically, and talk about we talk about and be sure and check us out. 

So, I'm Michael LeBlanc, I'm President of ME LeBlanc and Company and a host of a bunch of podcasts and a cooking show, Last Request Barbecue. So, check that out if you're, if you're into cooking and barbecue.

Sylvain Charlebois  49:30

Appetizing, so appetizing and I'm the Food Professor, Sylvain Charlebois.

Michael LeBlanc  49:35

And thanks, everyone for joining us and we'll look forward to talking to you in our next episode. 

Sylvain Charlebois  49:40

Bye, bye.


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