Prince Rupert brings its Indigenous food to the table in the Red Chef Revival documentary series about reconciliation through food, which has finally gone to air.
“Host Shane Chartrand is at the iconic North Pacific Cannery, where Chinese, Indigenous and Japanese communities converged. Shane cooks a seal meat stew, gets a hand poked tattoo and prepares a salmon tasters menu,” the show’s synopsis reads.
In Aug. 2018 Chartrand and his crew came to Prince Rupert and Gingolx, a small Indigenous fishing village four hours north of Prince Rupert, to meet with local fisherman and Indigenous elders from the Nisga’a Nation to learn more about their traditions.
The show is meant to explore what Indigenous cuisine means.
“It’s cuisine that goes back to its roots and pre-colonial diets. No sugar, no flour. It’s about the roots of Indigenous cooking – going nose to tail cooking, foraging, and cooking whatever is around you to make meals,” said Ryan Mah, one of the show’s two directors.
The show’s aim is to also discuss reconciliation through food.
“It’s a big topic, and by no means are we trying to answer this question, but it gives us an opportunity to talk about subjects of reconciliation. For example, we learned there were a lot of racial tensions at the North Pacific Cannery,” Mah said.
Mah went on to explain that while filming he learned that chow mein is considered to be part of some local Indigenous cuisine in Prince Rupert. The cannery, located in Port Edward, was once segregated between Japanese, Chinese and Indigenous factions, but they worked alongside each other sharing their food — noodles, rice, and fish.
“During this time they would share meals during lunch and this cuisine would really start to form. Chow mein is now very Indigenous and you will find it on an Indigenous menu because it was shared and embraced during that time,” he said.
But that is not the only thing they learned. Chartand cooked a seal dinner under the guidance of a lifelong Gingolx resident Winnie Doolan, and while there he explored the importance of fish to their local economy.
Nakkita Trimble, a Nisga’a artist in Prince Rupert, showed him the importance of ceremony in Nisga’a culture while giving him a hand poked tattoo, an old traditional form of tattooing.
Chartrand is the host chef for the Prince Rupert episode. He is from the Enoch Cree Nation and based in Edmonton, where he was recently the first Indigenous chef to win the Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championships.
Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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