Feast Café Bistro, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Photograph by Krista Anderson
Tending to a small, family garden during her childhood helped Christa Guenther to find a little peace while navigating a difficult upbringing. A proud member of the Peguis First Nation, she faced adversity growing up in Winnipeg but steered her life toward a brighter path as a young adult. Her heart focused in on helping underprivileged, inner-city Indigenous children and this led to her opening a daycare centre.
Noticing a lack of access to fresh, nutritious food for the youngsters in her care, Guenther began researching traditional foods. She started creating recipes and served up Indigenous food to the kids—and she noticed an instant turnaround in the children’s behaviour.
“Not only was it powerful to reconnect to our culture through food, but it gave a sense of pride, healing, self-worth and an understanding of where we came from,” says Guenther.
The more she learned, the more she experimented with Indigenous dishes, and her passion caught fire.
In December 2015, she opened Feast Café Bistro, Winnipeg’s only authentic Indigenous dining spot. It’s an intimate space with an Indigenous, contemporary feel that incorporates Guenther’s home-cook-turned-restaurateur cuisine, attracting people from every walk of life and culture. Imagine the freshness of wild mint, garlic, sweetgrass and other medicinal herbs sprinkled onto unprocessed, wild cuts of meat. Or tortillas made from wild rice flour and stuffed with beans, wild chives and bison—a majestic animal that has roamed the prairies since time immemorial.
“[Feast’s approach to cooking] is a ceremony. It’s tradition, sharing. It’s about everything around that dish and celebrating our food knowledge,” says Guenther.
Feast also cares for Mother Earth, using compostable takeout containers and eliminating unnecessary waste as much as possible in the kitchen.
“We use meat trimmings for stocks, marrow for sauces and everything is cooked in-house,” she says.
Another thing Guenther is proud of is providing employment opportunities to Indigenous Peoples with barriers. Many Indigenous in Winnipeg, and Canada, struggle with adversity, poverty and lower life expectancy due to poor health and living conditions.
“I want to source as many Indigenous workers as I can and I want to share and celebrate our food knowledge in this industry,” says Guenther. “Working here gives employees an opportunity to shine and show their resilience.”
Recipe: Venison Stew
Serves 4 to 6 people
Photograph courtesy of Christa Guenther
1 lb venison stew meat OR elk OR moose OR beef OR bison cut into 1-inch pieces, add 4 tbsp flour (or cornstarch) toss to coat meat
1 medium onion diced
2 celery stalks sliced
2 carrots peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 garlic cloves minced (or 1 tablespoon garlic powder)
1/2 butternut squash peeled, cored, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 can beef consume 284 ml & 4 cups water or 1 box beef broth (or use venison bone broth)
1 can crushed tomatoes 398ml
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup frozen corn (or fresh off the cob in fall season)
4 tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
salt & pepper
3 inches sweet grass (optional)
1. Heat large pot to medium high, add 3 tablespoons of oil to the pot and meat, sear 3 minutes on each side turning once or twice, cook until brown on all sides. Add onion, celery, carrots, squash, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper & garlic, cook 2 minutes stirring.
2. Add beef consommé, tomatoes, water, rosemary, sage, sweet grass (if using), bring to a bubble. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or if using an oven-proof pot cook in oven set to 350°F degrees. Meat should be tender and break apart easily.
3. Add corn, cook 10 for more minutes, covered. If the stew needs to be thickened, make slurry with 5 tbsp cold water and 2 tbsp of flour or cornstarch, slowly pour into stew stirring constantly. Serve with bannock or wild rice.
Photograph by Kaas Cross
The award-winning Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro has been a mainstay Indigenous restaurant in Vancouver for 10 years.
For owner and co-founder Inez Cook, the vision for Salmon n’ Bannock originally stemmed from noticing Vancouver’s lack of an Indigenous restaurant at the time, which Cook felt was needed in the city. A Sixties Scoop survivor (and an author on the topic in her children’s book Sixties Scoop), Inez was adopted from Nuxalk Nation in and around Bella Coola, B.C., and grew up in Vancouver. As an adult she became a flight attendant and at different times was based in Saudi Arabia, India, Nigeria, Egypt and England, falling in love with the local cuisines in each destination. Upon reconnecting to her Nuxalk heritage, a passion for Indigenous food ignited a desire to share her own culture through cuisine.
“I think food and culture bring people together,” says Cook. “You don’t need a [common] language to understand.”
Cook oversees ordering the ingredients her chefs use, such as wild fish, free-range organic game and fresh roots and other vegetables. The restaurant’s staff are all Indigenous and the team bounces ideas back and forth when coming up with new dishes. “I like to ask what their favourite dish is or a memory and we try to recreate it with our ingredients,” says Cook. “They have creative freedom, so they experiment.”
But what makes the restaurant really stand out, says Cook, is the hospitality. Because she strives to create a tight-knit, community-inspired atmosphere and treats each guest as if they were dining in her own home.
“We’re creating memories. Hopefully our guests will learn something new and get inspired, too.”
Salmon n’ Bannock is currently open for delivery only through Uber Eats; salmonandbannock.net
Recipe: Haida Gwaii Razor Clams
Photograph by Jeremy Inglett
2 red onions, thinly sliced
3 tbsp garlic
3 tbsp each dill and parsley, fresh and chopped
1lb razor clams, 1” squares
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1 cup white wine
1 cup clam nectar
salt and pepper to taste
1. Sauté 1 diced onion and garlic together and add herbs. Add the wine and nectar, if needed add some water and lemon juice.
2. Once sauce is simmering add the razor clams. Remove from heat after 10 seconds.
3. Dissolve the salt and sugar in the vinegar. Add the onions. Leave to pickle lightly in the fridge for 15 minutes.
5. Plate in a deep dish, or bowl. Add the onions on top. Add the razor clams on top of the veg and pour the liquid on top. Take a blowtorch and torch the clams until crisp.
Photograph by Hilary McDonald
Nehiyaw chef Shane Chartrand, of Enoch Cree Nation, is an artist through and through. As culinary ambassador with the River Cree Resort & Casino in Enoch, Chartrand works to promote and represent Indigenous cuisine and culture, both at the resort and beyond.
Chartrand is an award-winning chef with close to 30 years of experience in the industry. He’s a regular guest on local television and is known for national appearances on Wall of Chefs, Fridge Wars, Iron Chef Canada and Chopped Canada. But the tattoo-clad, professional cuisinier remains humble, even as his first book of personal stories and recipes, tawâw, penned with writer Jennifer Cockrall-King, continues to garner acclaim since its October 2019 release.
“Food, cooking—it is purpose,” says Chartrand. Although Chartrand is well-versed in western recipes, he’s always looking to integrate Indigenous-inspired ingredients in his dishes such as bannock flatbread pizza—pizza on bannock, infused with flavours of wild-game, classic pepperoni or vegetables.
Chartrand is also eager to continue to serve original dishes to his customers through special offerings of braised bison, elk and grilled fish imported from the Coast Salish tribes, and says that his childhood dreams and memories influence the dishes he shares with diners.
“I’m inspired by people’s emotions and thoughts. So, for me, it’s not just about the ingredients; I match the ingredients to the emotion.”
Recipe: Rabbit in a Garden
Makes 2 servings
Photograph by Cathryn Sprague
For the rabbit
4 to 6 cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
6 tbsp canola oil, divided
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 rabbit legs
pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup rubbed sage (see tip below)
For the garden
5 large kale leaves
pinch of fleur de sel
2 cups canola oil, or more as needed to shallow-fry
3 cremini mushrooms
2 radishes, including the tops
1/2 cup fennel tops and fronds (approx.)
1 English cucumber, for garnish
For the saskatoon berry vinaigrette
1⁄2 cup cold-pressed canola oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup pomegranate syrup
2 tbsp water
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄4 cup saskatoon berries or mossberries
1. In a small bowl, combine the chopped mushrooms, 2 tbsp of the oil, and the garlic. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F
3. Prepare the rabbit: Place the rabbit on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, remove the large upper bone from both thighs but leave the smaller bone in each leg; set the legs aside. Lay the thighs out, then cut horizontally through the meat until it is almost cut in half (butterflied) to make a pocket for the stuffing. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Divide the mushroom mix evenly between the thighs and then roll them closed. Using butcher’s twine, truss the legs shut.
4. Spread the rubbed sage over a plate. Roll the legs in the rubbed sage until evenly covered.
5. In a heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat until it shimmers. Sear the legs on each side for 2 minutes, or until you get a nice golden-brown crust on the flat parts of the meat. Transfer the seared legs to a dry pan and roast in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the internal temperature of each leg reaches 160°F. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to let the meat rest.
6. Deep-fry the kale leaves: Fill a deep pot with about 3 inches of oil and heat to
350°F (you’ll know it’s hot enough when you see little “rivers” appear along the bottom of the pot). Fry 3 of the kale leaves until golden brown. Using a wire-mesh scoop or slotted spoon, transfer the fried leaves to paper towel to drain. Season with a pinch of fleur de sel. Set aside.
7. Prepare the “garden”: Using a rolling pin, flatten out the remaining 2 kale leaves until tender. Using a paring knife, cut the centre stems out and discard. Rip the leaves into bite-size pieces with your fingers. Cut the mushrooms lengthwise into 1⁄4-inch pieces. Tear the radish tops into bite-size pieces. Trim the tops and bottoms from both radishes; peel one and cut it in half. Thinly slice the unpeeled radish into thin coins. Roughly chop the fennel tops and fronds. Using a vegetable peeler, shave 5 or 6 long strips from the cucumber. Roll them around your little finger to make a rose garnish, and set aside.
8. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the cold-pressed oil, lime juice, pomegranate syrup and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the saskatoons and stir until coated.
9. Assemble the dish: Combine the raw kale leaves, mushrooms, radish coins and tops, and fennel in a mixing bowl. Add the vinaigrette and gently toss (you don’t want to crush the saskatoons or break the mushroom slices).
10. Arrange one and a half fried kale leaves on the bottom of each serving plate. Cut a 3⁄4-inch round slice from the end of each rabbit thigh. Place one piece, cut-side up, on each of the
plates. Place one leg, bone facing up, on each plate. Arrange the dressed salad around the rabbit, dividing it equally. Place half of a peeled radish on each plate. Finish by garnishing each plate with curls of cucumber. Serve immediately.
Excerpted from tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine by Shane M. Chartrand with Jennifer Cockrall-King. Copyright © 2019 Shane Mederic Chartrand and Jennifer Cockrall-King. Reproduced with permission from House of Anansi Press Inc., Toronto. All rights reserved. www.houseofanansi.com