From Feb. 1 to 7, Winnipeggers can participate in La Poutine Week to enjoy our city’s delicious assortment of poutines and support Winnipeg’s culinary community. The Manitoban spoke to Daniel Gurevich, La Poutine Week’s Winnipeg ambassador, about this year’s festival, its history and its goals.
Nine years ago, Daniel and his sisters brought another popular Canada-wide food festival known as Le Burger Week to Winnipeg. After seeing Le Burger Week’s success in the city, he and his sister Arielle Gurevich decided to launch La Poutine Week as well and have organized the event ever since.
For those unfamiliar with La Poutine Week’s operations, the week-long festival is a chance for restaurants nationwide to show off their poutine creations, which customers have the opportunity to vote on through La Poutine Week’s website to determine the best poutine in their respective cities — in 2020, Winnipeg’s winner was the Guinness Tenderloin Poutine from Fionn MacCool’s Crossroads.
Gurevich explained that in addition to voting on the best poutine in the Winnipeg market, La Poutine Week also employs anonymous judges to vote on an array of poutines across the city regarding specific categories such as “most creative poutine,” which customers can seek out.
When asked about why he feels poutine is such a great food to highlight in food festivals, Gurevich said he believes that the level of creativity and diversity that can be found among poutine dishes is part of why it’s so well-loved.
“Poutine is something that everybody does and everybody can enjoy, and we like that everybody can put their spin on it […] it does definitely reflect the diversity in our culinary scene.”
“It’s one of those things that people rally around,” he said, “and it’s found on so many different menus […] I think it really is just a very common food and something that you find all over the place.”
Gurevich stated that, in the broadest sense, the main goal of Winnipeg’s La Poutine Week is to bring culinary communities together and support the city’s restaurants and related food industries as a whole, something it has done remarkably well in the past.
“Some restaurants look forward to [Le Burger Week] or [La Poutine Week] all year because they know they’ll see some of the busiest days of their entire year throughout the festival,” Gurevich said. “I’ve had plenty of restaurants tell me that […] they thought they’d prepped enough for the week and then ran out in a day […] We see great engagement from the city, and I think that Winnipeggers, in general, just do a wonderful job of supporting this type of event.”
“It’s a friendly competition,” he said. “The goal is to get people out and eating and enjoying local food and local flavours and […] just gathering around food and finding connections and commonalities through food […] there’s something out there for everybody.”
However, this year’s La Poutine Week looks a little different, seeing as customers cannot actually eat in restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival will continue completely via takeout and has partnered with SkipTheDishes to aid in facilitating this change.
Despite some of the logistical challenges that have come with organizing La Poutine Week during a pandemic, over 700 restaurants are participating in La Poutine Week nationwide —with over 100 restaurants in Winnipeg alone — all of which makes Gurevich feel optimistic about community engagement for the upcoming festival.
“We also want to make sure that people are being mindful of what’s going on […] we want to make sure that they’re remaining safe,” said Gurevich.
“We’re just really happy that restaurants can hopefully see some value and have some fun throughout what’s going on right now. We do it for the restaurants and we hope that everyone is able to enjoy themselves.”
You can find all the details on La Poutine Week, including a comprehensive list of 2021’s participating restaurants and last year’s winners, at lapoutineweek.com.