The Man Behind the Toronto Garlic Festival

Change. It can be a scary word. Especially for those of us who have been working in the same job or living in the same city for years. But if you feel an itch to do something new, you should follow your gut.

This is exactly what 50-year-old former sale and marketing VP-turned-Ontario garlic farmer Peter McClusky did. He’ll be the first to say it was a scary leap but, “If you are afraid of doing something new, don’t let that stop you. If you are afraid, then it’s a sign that the thing you are thinking about is something you should really consider.”

After more than 10 years with a sales and marketing company based out of New York, McClusky loved his job but felt he needed something more in his life. “I just felt I wasn’t getting the same satisfaction at the end of the day,” he says. He didn’t have a plan but after his sister had suggested farming, the decision became clear. He always had an interest in plants as a kid and in cooking and food as an adult. “So I made some inquiries and started volunteering at local farms in Toronto. Then I took the plunge in 2010 and interned full-time at an organic farm near Guelph, Ont.”

Now, McClusky is not only a strong advocate for Ontario garlic, he also runs Toronto’s first garlic festival. Why garlic? you might ask. Well, for a cook, it is one of the most important ingredients no matter which cuisine you prefer. And what is so special about Ontario garlic? McClusky says the proof is in the taste: “When I give garlic to friends and acquaintances, they are really blown away by the flavour.” Some festival participants prefer to be paid in Ontario garlic: “They won’t accept cash. If there is any measure of how good Ontario garlic is, I think that is a good one.”

Although there are many garlic festivals around Canada and the U.S., McClusky points out that most take place in rural areas, making the decision to host one in the big city an easy one. “Toronto is a perfect city for a garlic festival because we have all of these food lovers. We have all of these different cultures and ethnicities and cooking styles.” Many Toronto chefs interested in local farmers, local agriculture and with an appreciation for garlic were eager to be a part of the event – making last year’s inaugural festival a success and this year’s highly anticipated by foodies.

The Toronto Garlic Festival runs this Sunday, Sept 22, 2013 at Evergreen Brick Works, Toronto.  Click here for more information on the festival.

If you make your way to the festival, here are five ways to get rid of the garlic smell from Natasha Edwards’ book Garlic: The Mighty Bulb:

— “Eat a couple slices of lemon to help neutralize the odours.”
— “Brush your teeth or tongue with baking soda”
— “Chew a roasted coffee bean”
— “Chew parsley leaves”
— “Eat more garlic! The more we eat, the easier it is for our bodies to metabolize it.”