The best reason to kick the weekend off a little early this week? The Sake Institute of Ontario (SIO)’s third annual Kampai Toronto, of course! The largest sake festival in Canada, Kampai Toronto will have 120 of the best sakes from Japan and North America available for tasting, along with killer appetizers. We caught up with SIO President Vivian Hatherell to find out more…
Give us a snippet about you. What should people know?
I’m the owner of a wine and sake distributorship and a partner in the local Izumi sake brewery, which plays an active role in promoting and advancing the sake category in our markets. I’m pretty energetic and a bit headstrong, and embrace the opportunity to tackle new challenges. Few things make me happier than a great meal alongside great company!
What do you love most about being the President of the SIO? What makes it special?
I’ve had the privilege of being a driving force behind a lot of ‘firsts’ in the industry and for the category: the first large-scale sake tasting event in Canada with Kampai; the first sake tasting competition in Canada; using social media actively and thoughtfully to promote our brand and our category. All of this has offered great learning experiences and humbling moments professionally. It’s incredibly special because this small community of Toronto-based sake promoters and enthusiasts – many of whom are actually competitors in our day jobs – have managed to collaborate together and push boundaries like few other markets have done. I think that’s something pretty unique and noteworthy.
What are the things you love most about sake?
The fact it’s so versatile. It’s relatively easy to pair with so many different kinds of food and cuisines, is enjoyable at a myriad of serving temperatures, and is excellent to experience in both the traditional ochokos (traditional, small ceramic cups) and modern stemware. And there are so many different styles and flavours, from light-bodied and fruity to robust and earthy, intermingled with spice, nuttiness and minerality, and all from generally just four ingredients: water, rice, yeast, and a fermenting agent called koji!
What are you most excited for at this year’s Kampai Festival?
As with every year, the great crowd that comes out to support us – they are really excited, enthusiastic, and curious to learn and sample! We now recognize a lot of repeat guests and of course welcome those who are just discovering the event for the first time. This more than any other year I’m expecting a really healthy “Trade and Media” session as well, which is fantastic as we can hopefully engage this group to help spread sake awareness and education to a broader audience.
What are the biggest challenges and best rewards about what you do?
Trying to balance a number of professional roles with my personal time can be tricky. But at the end of the day, it’s amazing to look back and see how far we’ve come and how much we’ve done in three years. And there is so much more to look forward to in the future, too!
Finish this sentence. I love Toronto because…
…it’s a young city made up of a mélange of cultures, backgrounds, interests, personalities, and stories, and Torontonians are generally receptive to, tolerant of, curious about, and supportive of one another.
What are three things you can’t live without?
My family, my phone, and sushi!
What are some of your favourite restaurants in the world and why?
La Jules Verne, because what’s better than a Michelin-starred restaurant at the Eiffel Tower? Osteria alle Testiere in Venice because it’s in a hidden piazza in my favourite city in the world. And a seaside beach shack in Jimbaran Bay in Bali because the seafood was grilled fresh and the sunset was unbelievable.
What’s your favourite cocktail and where do you go to get it?
I’m very lucky to have as a great friend and colleague Nishan Nepulongoda from Blowfish Restaurant & Sake Bar, who is an incredible talent and among the top mixologists in the country – he’s serving a summer sake cocktail at Kampai called ‘Big in Japan’, which is absolutely delicious!
Are you going to Kampai this year? Comment below or tweet us @ViewtheVibe!