RANLlogoNearing 2,000 Twitter followers and nearly as many initiatives, “RANL,” aka The Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, “has been representing the interests of the Food Service Industry in our province for close to fifty years.”

But what, specifically, can we thank them for? In a nutshell: far too much to list in a half-page article. But in the context of this month’s food-themed issue, we can thank them for a plethora of programs that ensure we are growing, sourcing, and celebrating local food as much as possible. Take, for example, their “Fresh Connections” initiave, that was essentially a chef and farmer speed-dating session, that helped foster mutually beneficial relationships between local farmers and local restaurants, creating new sales revenue for farmers and new sources of fresh foods for chefs – something that can only help sustainable farming and restauranteering on the island.

“This effort was as much about rural development and sustainability as about dining,” they say. And it was echoed in their more recent “Cultivating Connections” initiative. RANL were the force behind the recent Savour Food and Wine Show that showcased some of the best food and drink in the province to the people of the province. They’re not just St. John’s focussed either. RANL has supervised the service aspect of the Songs, Stages and Seafood festival in Bay Roberts, and were the liaison between the town and the chefs at this seafood festival. They’ve also helped the organizers at festivals like Roots, Rants and Roars, and Eat The Hill; both of which highlight local foods and chefs/businesses in rural NL.

Essentially, they build the bridges or remove the barriers required to “build a foundation of local food networks to ensure that our restaurants have access to locally sourced foods. The move towards local food helps us grow and market our local culinary scene as something that is uniquely our Taste of Place, as well as helping provide a market for farmers and fishers and foragers.”

They’re also well-known for their annual Hall of Fame Award and their annual “From This Rock” event that showcases local fare. From This Rock originally boasted a dinner of all-local fare, but has evolved into “a pan-provincial road show that sees teams of chefs cook their way from the west to the east, offering multi-course meals of all local food.”

Other initiatives have included helping MUN Botanical Gardens “organize and put off their Garden Fair, which included four chefs using potatoes in their food offerings, and working with Parks Canada to create the Dinners at Cape Spear series … as well as the rum tasting event on Signal Hill, which was award winning, and became a template for other National Parks.”

RANL has also worked with the Canadian Culinary Federation to create the Cooking for Life program at Daffodil Place, “where chefs go in once a month to help show people how to cook with foods that may aid in their recovery.”

Takeaway message: they are the silent force helping foster the fabulous growth we’ve seen in local restaurant culture these last few years.