THE TALE BEHIND A TASTE OF THE WORLD'S BEGINNING
It all started with its founder Shirley Lum, a fourth generation Canadian-Chinese, born and raised in Toronto's Old Cabbagetown neighbourhood the first five years of her life, and then lived most of her life in The Annex when her parents moved to this tree-lined neighbourhood. She is an unabashed Foodie and a free-spirit who forges through Toronto’s neighbourhoods on foot and on her bicycle with a fork and knife in the quest for inexpensive, but mouthwatering meals in quirky outposts.
She credits a special fifth grade program set-up by Ms. F. Fisher at Palmerston Public School in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada for instilling in her an early passion for going off-the-beaten path and becoming a life-long student. Each Friday, Shirley and a select group of students would poke about in nooks and crannies like the small art galleries in Mirvish Village, attend cultural programs, and even make their own movie.
Later on, the times spent studying Psychology, Political Sciences and Sociology on the grounds of The University of Toronto added grist to her Haunted Yorkville, U of T and Queen's Park Walks.
A solo 2-1/2 months bicycle trip of Europe in 1988 re-kindled the passion for adventure as she went off-the-beaten-path while eating and pedalling her way through parts of France, England, Holland, Southern Ireland, and the Channel Islands. Whenever she was out of the bicycle saddle in a big city, she replaced her helmet with her cultural hat and attended walking tours, ballets, plays, and explored nooks and crannies on foot.
Between 1989 and 1992, she kept designing her own 2-wheeled adventures in various parts of Canada, and each time adding on more friends. She pedalled slowly up and quickly down the majestic Canadian Rockies, and biked her way through the Maritimes and Magdalen Islands. Then she explored the west coast of Canada, meandering through The Gulf Islands like Mayne and Pender, and of course, Vancouver Island. On each occasion all her friends were assured of noshing on memorable meals in quirky eateries - be they a refurbished train car serving the best fish and chips by the roadside, an antique-filled B & B serving homemade smoked salmon, a farm B & B serving the most memorable blueberry pancakes, or afternoon tea in an old lighthouse.
Since 1993, Shirley based her business, A Taste of the World, on unearthing nooks and crannies skipped by most guides, combined with introducing people to the diverse cultures and their food in diverse Toronto neighbourhoods. She enjoys opening the eyes of jaded lifelong Toronto residents, helping newcomers get their bearings within a huge sprawling Canadian city like Toronto, and seasoned visitors keen on rubbing shoulders with locals while stuffing all her guests with equal portions of food and fact along the neighbourhood walking tours. All tours begin with a quote from Marcel Proust: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes" and end with guests nodding in agreement with Confucius that "A man cannot be too serious about his eating for food is the force that binds society together". Meanwhile all ghost walks start off with a well-known fact that Toronto means meeting place, but " Is Toronto a meeting place for the living - or the dead? "
From 1993 onward, A Taste of the World has hosted tours for people from all walks of life as close as Toronto and as far away as Siberia, Sweden, Spain, Iran, UK, and Argentina. Tours have been customized for various schools, organizations and event planners as can be seen in Media section.
From the start, Shirley has attracted media close and far: Journeywoman.com, BBC's Cook About Show, Washington Post, L. A. Times, Christine Cushing Live on Food Network, CNN's Travel Now Show, National Geographic Traveler, Fodor's Around Toronto With Kids, Discovery Channel (Food Stuff), Frommer's Travel Guide ,Frommer's with Kids Toronto (1st Ed.), Lonely Planet's Toronto Guide, The Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, Doctor's Review, the Buffalo News, Chicago Times, CFTO's Eye On Toronto, CBC Radio, CFRB AM 1010, and many more. Her own articles have appeared in WHERE Toronto, Toronto This Summer '95, Pedal Magazine, and Personal Trainer Network.
A Taste of The World has been acknowledged for its quality and excellence thanks to Shirley being a proud Toronto Tourism Award nominee in the Arts & Attractions Sector for exhibiting outstanding service, in 1996, 1998 and 1999. In 2000, A Taste of The World has been the proud Ontario's Runner-Up of Win With Winter in Canada for Cities in Winter category. Year 2000 also marked further growth in terms of addition of ghost walks, and the launch of In Footsteps of Dickens: 1842 walk in conjunction with the special of A Christmas Carol by Gerald Charles Dickens, a great-great grandson of Charles Dickens. Post 9/11 visitors and locals alike, found solace in the comfort food dishes served along our various Foodies tours. In 2003, amidst the series of challenges in the form of Iraqi war, SARS outbreaks, Mad Cow, West Nile Virus alert, and Blackout, A Taste of The World celebrated its 10th year of quality and excellence with loyal fans.
2008 was marked with celebrating the 130th Anniversary of Toronto’s Lost First Chinatown walks (formerly known as First & Second Chinatowns Foodies Walk) and launching the inaugural Annual Chinese New Year’s Eve & Day Dinner Banquets.
2010 - Year of the Tiger - is associated with dramatic changes and intense activity, and guests will see no less with Shirley! The year kicks off with the popular Chinese New Year tours. This is followed by an invitation to speak on Ontario Today on CBC Radio with Rita Celli, a news and phone-in program linking radio listeners across this province. Then Shirley hosts the Third Annual Chinese New Year’s Eve Banquet. Before February ends, she conducts the Marmalade with Asian Twists workshop at the Third Annual Mad For Marmalade, Crazy For Citrus presented by Culinary Historians of Ontario and Fort York National Historic Site.
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