Meet Sheila Lumsden, the first Indigenous person to crack the top 24 on Master Chef Canada

Kent Driscoll
APTN National News
For Inuit, food is culture and culture can be food. From char to caribou, Inuit treasure the connection to the land and the people that country food brings.

Iqaluit’s Sheila Lumsden is about to bring that joy for northern cooking to a national audience.

Lumsden is the first indigenous person to crack the Top 24 in MasterChef Canada, a reality cooking show that pits home chefs from across the country against each other, to determine who is the Master Chef.

For an Inuk chef like Lumsden, if you’re going to show the country something, it might as well be country food.

“I would say, if people have a chance to try our seal meat, especially baby seal, which is a delicacy, that would not only help to educate people on how yummy our food is, but also help the cause in supporting the seal hunt,” said Lumsden.

To support Inuit food often means defending Inuit culture, which is intimidating for one Inuk to do.

Lumsden faced another intimidation, the actual competition. The clock is merciless, and so are the judges.

She is much more relaxed in her kitchen, telling her story while picking the tiny bones out of a piece of arctic char, but remembers her time in the pressure cooker well.

“Then of course, having the chef judges standing there, while we’re preparing food, you see, was very intimidating,” she said.

Lumsden was the last chef to arrive in Toronto due to travel from Nunavut. When she arrived, she was greeted with cheers from her competitors.

Then, questions started.

“Country food, that’s the food I prefer to prepare, that I choose to prepare and cook. The other 23 home cooks, in out down times, I had unending questions being shot at me,” said Lumsden.

MasterChef keeps their secrets close, but did reveal to us what Lumsden’s audition dish was.

She made the cut with wild arctic char ceviche with avocado salad garnished with daikon and chives.

That is what she wants for other indigenous home chefs, to cook the food that makes them feel like home.

“It is wide open. Indigenous cuisine and Inuit cuisine is a wide open page that can be filled by people like myself or other indigenous or Inuit cooks or chefs, that want to explore that. We can help educate other Canadians,” said Lumsden.

MasterChef Canada premiers next week, and Lumsden will be the first Inuk to ever compete on it – and Nunavut will be watching closely to see what she does with tuktu (caribou) from their nanook (polar bear).

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