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.”

feastcafebistro.com

Recipe: Venison Stew

Serves 4 to 6 people

Photograph courtesy of Christa Guenther

Ingredients:

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)

Method:

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.

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