Local Aboriginal chef Shane Chartrand teams up with two other prominent Indigenous chefs in a new documentary series launching Tuesday, April 16 on the Storyhive YouTube channel.
Red Chef Revival, produced by Black Rhino Creative, is a six-episode, 22-minute food and travel show exploring modern Indigenous cuisine through the eyes of three chefs. They are: Algonquin chef Cezin Nottaway, who runs a food business out of Kitigan Zibi Algonquin First Nation (Maniwaki) in Quebec and has been featured in The New York Times; Rich Francis, a Top Chef finalist; and Chartrand, a Chopped finalist and the first Aboriginal chef to take top honours at a Gold Medal Plates competition. (Chartrand captured the Edmonton round of this prestigious event in 2017, which won him a berth in the national competition.)
The three chefs involved learn about new paths toward reconciliation in the series, and food is the entry point. This is not another story of bannock and Saskatoon berries; chefs work with highly unusual ingredients, including bison heart, beaver tail, moose nose, seal and cougar.
“The series put us all in situations in which we were uncomfortable,” says Chartrand, 44, a recipient of the NAIT Alumni Hall of Fame Award and a Chaine Des Rotisseurs Plate of the Year Award winner, too. “It’s very Anthony Boudain-esque. We’re walking around, talking, and learning.”
The first episode of Red Chef Revival kicks off with chef Francis in Osoyoos, British Columbia. Chartrand makes his first appearance in the third episode, airing April 30. That episode takes place in Prince Rupert, where Chartrand visits the iconic North Pacific Cannery and learns how the Chinese, Indigenous and Japanese communities in the area have converged, along with their food traditions.
The episode sees Chartrand struggling to connect with his own Metis/Cree identity, and cooking a traditional seal meat stew. He also gets a hand-poked (and extremely painful) tattoo.
The series taught Chartrand that even when you’re Aboriginal and are familiar with numerous Indigenous traditions, there is always something new to learn. While in Prince Rupert, he discovered that chow mein on a bun is considered an Aboriginal food by members of the local nation, the Nisga’a. (You’ll have to watch the series for an explanation.)
“It showed us that even as Indigenous people, we don’t know Indigenous people,” says Chartrand. “It was a real learning experience. … It’s an amazing series.”
In other food news, fans of Chartrand’s bold culinary style will be pleased to know he is releasing his first cookbook this fall. The book Tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine traces Chartrand’s culinary journey, sharing personal stories along with recipes. (Tawâw means “welcome, there is room,” in Cree.) Published by House of Anansi Press, the book comes out in October.
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