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Chef’s Tips and Tricks: Local, Really Local.

First Nations and Metis Chefs show us how to work with local ingredients and cultural flair.


Story is courtesy of Culinaire Magazine --

"Our September issue regularly focuses on harvest and seasonal dishes, but as this is a year unlike any other, we reached out to Indigenous or First Nations chefs working around the province for their takes on locally sourced dishes that celebrate the cuisine of the first inhabitants of the land around us."

-- Culinaire Magazine


metis, food, alberta, canada.
Chef Brad Lazarenko and his Team

Brad Lazarenko

is a busy man. Not only the founder and chef of the Culina family of restaurants, he’s also the culinary director of Métis Crossing in Smoky Lake County, Alberta.

“Like the Métis,” Lazarenko tells us, “our favourite dishes come from a fusion of past and present, of European and First Nations, and local and international influences… our philosophy has been to bring in Indigenous chefs to create dishes that guests will travel miles to enjoy.”

Little known, but according to Lazarenko: “The origin of bannock is often confused as Indigenous cuisine. It is very Métis and was introduced by the Scottish people”. As for suggestions or tips for cooking at home, chef advises to, “shop seasonally and trust your local farmer. Locally produced food (organic or not) will always be more expensive, but the quality is always better - plus your money stays in the local economy.”

For something a little different, try Chef Lazarenko’s Métis Boulettes

Métis Boulettes

Serves 4-6

2 L (8 cups) meat broth/stock 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters 6 stalks of celery, cut into small pieces

6 medium carrots, cut in small pieces 1 kg of ground bison, moose or deer 3 large onions, finely diced 1 Tbs minced garlic 2 Tbs ground fresh sage or dill Pinch of chilies 1 cup flour To taste salt and pepper

1. Boil stock in a large soup pot with potatoes, celery and carrots.

2. Form the ground meat, onions, and herbs/spices into balls (55-75 g) and roll in flour.

3. Place the meatballs in the stock and simmer over medium heat until done, adding a water and flour paste to thicken the broth at the end. Serve with fresh bannock and saskatoon jam. Enjoy!


Chef Billy Alexander

is a man in transition. He’s been a consulting chef for Westjet, and the Executive Chef for Little Chief and the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino, but headed to the Caldwell First Nation in Southern Ontario at the end of the summer to start a new restaurant, “3 FIRES” - an indigenous culinary experience planned to be both interactive and informative about the history and culture of the Caldwell people through food and drink.

Chef would like to clarify the thought that indigenous people only ate meat and relied on the hunt. “Yes, it is true that we were reliant on the hunt for our meat, but we were largely reliant on our ability to live off the land. Our ability to forage, gather, and garden is what really gave us the day to day nourishment.”

Chef Alexander is also quick to correct that indigenous cuisine is a new type or food or even a fad. “Indigenous cuisine has been around for as long as indigenous people have been here, and that dates back over 14 thousand years. I like to tell people it’s the longest running fad in the history of these great lands.”

For tips on selecting ingredients, Chef Alexander shares, “I am a believer in eating seasonally and sourcing ingredients seasonally. It is simple, it promotes local, and it is always fresh.” He adds, “If you are looking for game meats, my preference is always wild if possible. If that isn’t an option, go to a local butcher where you can usually find venison, bison, elk, or boar, to name a few.”

For a complete and delicious meal, try Chef Alexander’s 3 Sisters Salad with Cedar Plank Salmon.

3 Sisters Salad with Cedar Plank Salmon

Serves 4-6

1 cob sweetcorn, shucked and cleaned

1 large bunch green beans, trimmed

1 large summer squash

¼ cup pine nuts

¼ cup (60 mL) extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs (30 mL) fresh lemon juice

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish

1 garlic clove, finely grated

To taste salt and pepper

1. Place a pot of water on stove to boil.

2. Remove the kernels from the cob using a serrated knife or a small paring knife. Place in a small bowl.

3. Place green beans in a large mixing bowl. Cover the green beans with boiling water from the pot and set aside for 4 minutes. Cover corn kernels with boiling water and set aside for 1 minute.

4. Once vegetables have deepened in colour and softened slightly, pass them through a strainer and rinse with lots of cold water.

5. Using a vegetable peeler, thinly shave the summer squash into ribbons. Work your way around the squash until you hit the seeds in the middle.

6. Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until light brown and fragrant.

7. For the dressing, place olive oil, lemon juice, basil, and grated garlic into a small jar and shake until emulsified. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

8. To plate, place squash, green beans, and corn into a large salad bowl. Pour over half the dressing and mix gently with your fingertips to combine. Garnish with pine nuts and fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately or let marinate in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes. Serve with remaining dressing.

Cedar and Maple Plank Salmon

2 Tbs (30 mL) grainy mustard

2 Tbs (30 mL) pure maple syrup

1 tsp minced rosemary

1 Tbs grated lemon zest

To taste salt and pepper

1 kg salmon fillet with skin (4 cm thick)

1 tsp dried sage

1 Tbs microgreens

1 cedar grilling plank

1. Soak cedar plank in water to for 4 hours, keeping it immersed.

2. Preheat oven to 325º F.

3. Combine mustard, maple syrup, rosemary, zest, and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

4. Spread mixture on flesh side of salmon and let stand at room temperature 15 minutes.

5. Put salmon on plank, skin side down and place in oven. Cook for 25 minutes or until salmon edges are browned and flesh easily flakes. Let salmon stand on plank 5 minutes before serving.

6. Plate salmon atop 3 sisters’ salad and garnish with dried sage and microgreens.


David Landage

is the executive chef at the Clarion Hotel and conference center (soon to be Hilton Double Tree) and is passionate about locally sourced ingredients for the Cross Roads Kitchen, but looking to embrace the flavours and culture of Calgary and its environs.

Chef Ladange shares that: “While many people associate venison or deer meat with historical Native American recipes, people from all across the nation also ate rabbit, buffalo, mutton, pork, both saltwater and freshwater fish, and a variety of shellfish.”

But he cautions that aiming for historical accuracy: “Many people believe that you should only use ingredients that were naturally found in North America. This leaves out many delicious ingredients that use wheat flour, mutton, or any other foods that were brought over from the old world of Europe.”

According to Chef Ladange, when sourcing ingredients: “The native people from North America were skilled farmers by the time the European settlers showed up. Even when they gathered natural food during their nomadic migrations, they enjoyed a host of vegetables, wild grains, and herbs to flavour their recipes. Some of these included melons, nuts, mushrooms, cactus, cabbage, onions, sage, mint, and pumpkins. Whenever possible, support local farmers and markets.”

Chef Landage shares his comfort food dish of Bison Short Ribs and Navajo Fry Bread. See for the Fry Bread recipe.

Bison Short Ribs and Navajo Fry Bread

Serves 6-8

4 kg bison short ribs (cut English Style if possible)

4 Tbs butter

1 large onion, rough chop

2 carrots, rough chop

6 cloves garlic, rough chop

2 cups (500 mL) red wine

6 cups (1.5 L) beef stock

1 400 g can peeled whole tomatoes

2 sprigs rosemary

5 sprigs thyme

2 sprigs oregano

2 sprigs sage

5 sprigs parsley

2 bay leaves

To taste salt and pepper

1. Heat a braising pan over medium-high heat, it will take 3‒4 minutes to get hot.

2. If the meaty side of the short ribs have a layer of fat, use your boning knife to remove it. Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper, rubbing in thoroughly.

3. Add butter to the hot pan until it melts and the foam subsides. Lay the short ribs into the pan and begin browning them. Preheat the oven to 350º F.

4. Remove the bison short rib and add the veggies. With a wooden spoon, stir the veggies around. Cook until the onions begin to get transparent and a little caramelized.

5. Add the wine, 1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock, and tomatoes. Scrape up the drippings stuck to the bottom of the pan. These are known as known as fond, and add richness to the sauce.

6. Bring the braising liquid to a boil for a minute or two then add the ribs back in. Turn off heat. Add the herbs to the pot and cover with lid. Cook in oven for one hour.

7. After an hour, remove the pan from the oven. Remove lid and flip the ribs over. Re-cover the braising pan and put it back in the oven for another hour. Flip the ribs again. Repeat this process for a total cooking time of 4 hours. When the ribs are done, let them rest for 10 minutes before serving them. Add a little lemon zest on top for a nice touch.


Chef Shane Chartrand

is the Culinary Ambassador for the River Cree Resorts and Casino, but he’s well known as a contestant and judge for a number of culinary shows such as Iron Chef, Chop Canada and several others. A man in demand for his work with indigenous groups all over the country, and passion for sharing and promoting good food, more recently Chartrand has been earning accolades for his book; tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine, written with Jennifer Cockrall-King.

Spending a great deal of time on the road most years (this is an unusual year in so many ways), and working with fine dining as well as various indigenous groups, at home Chartrand enjoys “humble” foods like pastas and Bolognese, Mediterranean-style cuisine and the like, though he’s also an avid fisherman and hunter, which ties into his indigenous roots.

“People rarely understand what indigenous cuisine really is,” he says. “It’s terroir – local, really local ingredients prepared in a delicious fashion; eating from the land, but we don’t do it all the time.” Chartrand laments that information about indigenous cuisine is somewhat hard to find: “it’s why we wrote the book,” he says.

As for a tip for those at home, Chartrand takes a different, if practical, approach: “Get a good chopping block. Invest in a good set of knives too. Give yourself space and time so you don’t get frustrated during the process. Clean as you go.”

For an easy and delectable snack or side dish, try Chef Chartrand’s puffed fried rice from his cookbook.

Puffed Fried Rice

Makes approximately 2 cups

3 cups (750 mL) water

1 cup (250 mL) wild rice, rinsed and drained

Neutral-flavoured cooking oil, such as canola, for frying

To taste salt

1. Bring the water, rice, and a big pinch of salt to a boil over high heat, and then stir well before covering with a lid. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until most of the rice kernels have opened fully, showing the white inside.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drain the cooked rice through a fine mesh sieve and turn out onto the prepared baking sheet. Let the rice dry and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

3. In a deep-fryer, heat the oil to 350° F, or pour 5 cm oil into a pot and heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 375° F. For shallow frying, work in small batches so as not to crowd the pot and allow oil to come back up to temperature in between batches.

4. Fry the rice until it stops bubbling vigorously and is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. When each batch is done, use a wire-mesh scoop (known as a spider) or slotted spoon to transfer to a clean paper-towel or parchment-lined baking sheet. While rice is still hot, sprinkle generously with salt. Repeat until all the rice is fried. Let cool completely before storing, loosely covered, at room temperature. Tastes best when used within a few days.

All Photos courtesy of Culinaire Magazine


Courtesy of Culinaire Magazine

Culinaire Magazine


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