BY NAOMI INMAN
Oregon’s Department of Agriculture (ODA) deployed a new culinary ambassador this recent February when Miss Oregon 2015, Ali Wallace, flew to Japan to promote trade and raise eyebrows for her home state’s sensational food and beverage exports. Japan is Oregon’s top agriculture trading partner, buying both fresh produce and processed foods.
While Miss Wallace never modeled a swimsuit, she did pageant the sexier side of Oregon’s agricultural exports at the Portland Fare in Osaka’s upscale Hanshin department store. In one photo-op, Wallace proudly crowned the Colossal Onion for its spunky personality and plus-size waistline of 4.25-inches or more. She sampled silky artisanal chocolates and Cacao drinking chocolates, and showcased the sweet and sassy characters of Oregon’s craft beers and ciders, among other varieties of coffee, tea, and even honey from Portland’s backyards.
Miss Wallace’s celebrity status and dazzling crown afforded her an eager audience as she spoke to shoppers about the Portland food scene and life in Oregon saying “Portland is definitely what everyone says—it’s weird, it’s cool, it’s crazy, it’s fun, it’s up and coming.”
The newest sipping sensations among shoppers were Rev. Nat’s Cider, and Kombucha Wonder Drink, who sponsored Miss Oregon’s tour of promotional events in Japan. She also represented the state of Oregon, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and the city of Portland. Miss Wallace was formerly Miss Portland.
After Osaka, Miss Wallace went to Tokyo for the iron chef-inspired competition, United Tastes of America Chef’s Challenge, where she made a guest appearance promoting Oregon’s super colossal onions as a star-studded American ingredient. The winning Tokyo teammates, Susumu Ogashiwa and Shinji Nagano (Milial Resort Hotels Tokyo), were invited to Portland for the annual Portland Feast 2016 as part of the international culinary ambassador program.
While in Tokyo, she made diplomatic appearances at the Supermarket Trade Show, and was received by the Japanese Consul General. She also visited Portland’s sister city Sapporo. To set the stage for the trip, Wallace had paid a visit to the Japanese Consular Office of Japan in Portland, where she proudly presented a gift basket of Oregon products to Consul General Hiroshi Furusawa.
Theresa Yoshioka, International Trade Manager for the ODA, told KATU’s AM Northwest, “Portland is very popular in Japan right now. Japan is Oregon’s number one trading partner in food and agricultural products.” Miss Oregon’s appearance helped to enhance the state’s image in Japan and will hopefully lead to more sales of Oregon food products.