P.E.I.'s Chef Ilona Daniel heading to Ethiopia to share Canada 150 menu

May 9, 2017
               News

Maureen Coulter comment@theguardian.pe.ca 

Chef Ilona Daniel.

©Guardian file photo

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - When chef Ilona Daniel opened her email one morning last month, she thought it was a scam message.Advertisement 

Daniel had received an email from the Canadian ambassador to Ethiopia, Philip Baker, inviting her to travel to Ethiopia for a week to take part in the Canada 150 celebrations.

‍She read the email again and clicked on the link provided and learned that this was, in fact, the real deal.

“It was the first thing in the morning, I was kind of like in shock. How is this possible? What a small world, you know? I was just ‘wow’ beside myself.”

Daniel was quick to accept the invitation. She reached out to the sponsors to co-ordinate her weeklong trip to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where she will be serving food to 800 guests at the embassy.

Daniel said the guest list will include friends to the embassy, as well as dignitaries and ambassadors from all over the world.

“I was really excited,” said Daniel in an interview with The Guardian. “It’s an amazing, amazing opportunity and a real honour.”

Daniel is preparing a menu featuring Canadian ingredients, showcasing the flavours of home as part of a cultural exchange.

Some of the planned items include lobster rolls, oysters and a Caesar bar.

Daniel is also partnering with an Ethiopian chef in creating a fusion dish with beef curry and wild rice pancakes

“I hope to really serve my country and represent Canada with the pride I have with being a Canadian.”

However, this trip includes more than Daniel showcasing her culinary talents. The other part of this trip is a diplomatic mission to help improve the status of women and children.

Daniel said she plans to work closely with them and share her approach to the industry, including her culinary techniques and experiences.

“I will have the opportunity to work with women in the industry and kind of share some of my journey and my experiences and to kind of empower them to say that anything you can do and anything you want can be achieved,” said Daniel. “For me, this is exactly the type of thing that makes me very excited, very passionate - to know that I’m paying it forward and doing my part to be the change I want to see.”

Daniel has never travelled to Ethiopia before and is excited to see what she will walk away with from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I will change,” says Daniel in the days leading to her trip. “ Everywhere you travel to you change, and I’m just excited to know what that change will be.”

Daniel has become somewhat of a globetrotter during her career as a chef. She has travelled to various places in the United States and Canada, United Kingdom, Italy and China.

“I have really come to understand that food is another language,” said Daniel. “Food is a way to communicate and is a very powerful tool.”

Daniel says she is looking forward to walking away with a more colourful palate and outlook on life in learning more about Ethiopia cuisine and their culture.

“I still feel like, ‘is this really happening?’ ” said Daniel. “It’s just amazing.”

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