Indigenous cuisine

Indigenous chefs bring cultural flavour to restaurant menus

By Jeni Marinucci

With Canada’s 150th birthday barrelling towards us this July, restaurants are preparing themselves – and their menus – with a decidedly Canadian-flavoured bent. Of course, Canadian staples like Alberta beef, Quebec maple syrup and Maritime seafood will feature heavily, but diners seeking a more authentic Canadian cuisine are in luck; with a growing in interest in Indigenous cooking, they’re going to be very happy – and very full.

Toronto is only one of the growing number of Canadian cities now home to a restaurant with Indigenous chefs at the helm. Ku-kum in Toronto features chef Joseph Shawana, who spent time in the kitchen during his youth on the Wikwemikong Reserve on Manitoulin Island developing a love for the dishes his grandmother created from local and cultural specialties. The restaurant is named for her, Ku-kum being Cree for Grandmother.

Shawana attributes his style to both his traditional French classical training and also the simplicity: “I cook simple,” he tells the CBC. “All my recipes are basically less than 10 ingredients.” The results are artfully delicious. He believes that creating something on a plate “is a way of showing your pride.”

Ku-kum isn’t a “one of a kind” venture, either. There are now Indigenous restaurants all over Canada from Kamloops to Nova Scotia, and in every province in between.

In Vancouver, diners are able to experience Indigenous cuisine at the Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro, where chef Inez Cook prepares dishes such as sockeye salmon served with birch glaze. They also feature locally-sourced foods, including venison and blueberry sausage. Since the bistro is currently Vancouver’s only Indigenous owned and operated restaurant, Cook, who is a member of the Nuxalk Nation, is proud to bring cultural flavours to the plates of Canadians: “Imagine growing up in your culture and never being able to eat your food in a restaurant,” she tells the CBC.

And now, in what is hopefully a new era of appreciation, no one will have to miss out again.

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