In the Kitchen with Cooks with Stones Chef Dean
Chef Dean Herkert of Bistro on Notre Dame in Winnipeg flew out to Alberta to meet with the Cooks with Stones participants and work on the menu they will be serving as part of the Canada Day London celebration at Trafalgar Square in London, U.K.
Chef Dean sat down with us to go over his history with FESA, what he's excited for during the London trip, and what he is working on with the youth in preparation for the trip.
FESA: Hi, there Dean, could you state your full name and your restaurant and just how you came to be involved with the Cooks with Stones program?
Dean: My name is Dean Mercer, I am the chef owner of Bistro on Notre Dame in Winnipeg, MB, and I am a member of the Red River, Metis Nation.
We actually, through a mutual acquaintance, found out about Cooks with Stones when there was an International tourism conference in Winnipeg. So we had heard about Cooks with Stones, and we're interested in because as it was explained to us, it was First Nations people getting back in touch with their traditional cooking methods. The indigenous cooking methods of this area of the country.
That really interested me, because the restaurant I have is a locally/indigenous sourced restaurant using global influences in my recipes. What that means is when I first opened the restaurant I was looking to stay as locally sourced as possible and as I was looking at local sourcing the question came up more and more.
FESA: What are you excited about for in regard to the London trip?
Dean: I'm excited about the opportunity for exposure for those indigenous ingredients that were suppressed historically here in North America, the chance to take these practices abroad and show people what was here before.
North America is kind of going through an identity crisis, and they're kind of stumbling towards or moving towards indigenous practices without realizing it. I think that kind of exposure will help us in the long run, as a society, develop our identity better for, if nothing else, and at least acknowledge how the indigenous peoples have contributed to the current society that we're in and the opportunity to expand on that.
FESA: What do you hope the Indigenous Youth take away from the London trip?
Dean: I'm ultimately hopefully for just a better perspective. International exposure or exposure to another culture. London as part of UK and its current state as opposed to what's back here. So, they get a chance to see the outside world in layman's terms and bring it back here, and hopefully it's an opportunity to process to further develop self identity for the youth.
I've been to London before. It's an experience. Hard for me to say what I took away from London and the United Kingdom when I was there as you could see the old kingdom, the old monarchy, the old empire that is no longer there, and you can see it reflected in the attitude of the people.
Hopefully, that exposure to that multiculturalism, that exposure to a lot of diversity and then being able to come back here and compare it to where we're at in terms of that say multiculturalism and/or Being able to express their own culture here.
FESA: You've been working on a menu with the youth. What? What do you have planned for the menu that you're going to showcase over at London, UK?
Dean: From what I understand from the youth is, they wanted to do a poutine as kind of timeline for the First Nations people and their exposure to colonialism and culinary development. As time has gone by. Cooks with Stones has really focused on indigenous food preparation best with game needs. So we're going to focus on the game need, and what is available in Great Britain is bison and venison, so we will be using that, and the Poutine because potatoes were an indigenous ingredient to the Americas.
It wasn't widespread throughout North America, but then it did become. So it's the incorporation of the potato into the First Nations diet, and then the evolution towards the protein itself, which has European influence with cheese curds, so that menu, hopefully, we can reflect some of that timeline and some of that evolution of the First Nations diet and then as well we will be featuring wild rice and taga tea.
Both are indigenous ingredients to North America, more along the Great Lakes. The Canadian Shield, but still indigenous ingredients that are very healthy that. Well, rice especially was suppressed as a food source as an indigenous food source, and it is only now really starting to evolve. So I'm looking forward to showcasing the wild rice itself.
FESA: In preparation for the London trip, what are you preparing with the youth?
Dean: It may not sound like a complicated dish, but poutine itself can be very complicated in its execution. We really have to work on the execution in terms of modern day terms, it's called barbecuing. We want to work on our execution of barbecuing and then as well our potato presentation. We have to decide how we want to make that presentation. So we have to just kind of tweak the execution of those ingredients to make sure we're comfortable with what we're going to put out in the end in London.
Probably the big thing is we're using Indigenous ingredients, and we want to bring it forward. We want to use some of our modern practices or influences as a result of globalization. We do have exposure to a lot more spices, a lot more culinary practices that we would like to incorporate into our own indigenous ingredients.
So that's what we kind of have to work out today. What kind of spices we want to use, and how do we want to actually execute the video itself? There is some flexibility with poutine. The same with wild rice and berries that are indigenous to North America, and Maple syrup, of course. There is a little bit of flexibility there and a little bit of way of expressing yourself through that menu.
Cooks with Stones is a part of our current Pathways Project. For more information on the Pathway's Project, please visit https://www.furthered.ca/pathways. If you want to stay up to date on the Cooks with Stones London Trip, like or follow us on our social media accounts: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.