On a perfect day in Carcross, YT, Indigenous chefs are busy by the grills cooking up fare for the Fire Feast that probably won’t be found on southern grills.
The menu includes;
Smelts wrapped in kelp.
Salted bison roast.
And seal loin marinated in mint.
“It’s really nice it brings you back to your roots and the humble beginnings,” said Chef Joseph Shawanda.
The three chefs at this Fire Feast were hand-picked by Eric Patman of Edible Canada.
His company runs tours around the world that showcase Canadian cuisine.
“Local, sustainable & seasonal ingredients in the hands of many cultures and Canada being a melting pot there’s hundreds and hundreds of cultures but the reality the founding culture is the Indigenous peoples,” said Patman.
The idea behind the Fire Feast is to showcase Indigenous cuisine.
Local culinary students are pulled in to help prepare the food.
“Just different techniques and methods of how they cook and bred and I never tired seal so that’s going to kind of interesting,” said Yukon college culinary student Joshua Darybirshire
Classically trained in French cuisine, Joseph Shawana is the chef and owner of KŪ-KŬM Indigenous kitchen in Toronto.
At the Fire Feast, he’s preparing one of his restaurants signature dishes – loin of seal.
“It’s high in iron, calcium, magnesium per gram there’s more omega threes versus a regular capsule you get,” he said.
Last fall, Shawana faced international backlash for serving the highly controversial meat.
He said he did his due diligence in finding seal that is sustainably harvested and serves it to pay homage to northern communities.
“They eat it and it has sustained them for thousands of years right so and it’s one of the most controversial meats in Canada in the world,” he said.
Chef Shane Chartrand is the executive chief of Sage restaurant in Edmonton was looking for Hooligan, but settled for smelts.
“I’ll BBQ Swiss chard with a little bit of white turnip puree some powdered seaweed and some birch syrup like a little roll up,” said Chartrand.
Chef Christa Bruneau-Guenther, owner of Feast Café Bistro in Winnipeg brought some ingredients from home.
“This is actually from northern Manitoba from and indigenous community,” said Bruneau-Guenther. “It’s the most beautiful wild rice I’ve seen so I had to bring a little bit of home and this is actually going into my wild rice corn salad to go with my Arctic char you boil it up just like pasta.”
At the fire pit, dinner guests watch as the unique dishes are prepared over the fire on the shores of Nares Lake at the Carcross Tagish First Nation cultural centre.
“Fire just adds flavour to food like it’s fun it’s unique,” said Patman. “And obviously it’s culturally appropriate and that’s why we want to play we got a fire pit and the chefs like play in the fire.”
And without a hitch, the chefs and their teams have prepared a culinary spread.
Their signature dishes along with other Indigenous inspired foods.
And according to the reaction of some… the Fire Feast was a hit.
“Well I just had the first bite ever of seal it’s an amazing piece of meat,” said Antoinette Greenoliph who owns a restaurant down the highway in Whitehorse.
“I love the way it feels between my teeth it has a different bite it’s delicious, it’s delicious,”
“Well done,” said Lee Francoue. “I don’t know if had arctic char done the way as this.”