Chef David Wolfman has many inspirations but says one of his biggest is the "country food" created by Indigenous peoples across Canada.

Wolfman, who is a member of the Xaxli'p First Nation in British Columbia, is putting his knowledge and heritage to good use in a new cookbook titled "Cooking With The Wolfman: Indigenous Fusion", which he co-wrote with his wife Marlene Finn, a member of the Metis community.

He is a classically trained Chef and Culinary Arts Professor at George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto.

For nearly 20 years he was the host of and executive producer of Cooking with the Wolfman, a television program featuring Wolfman's Indigenous fusion recipes.

Wolfman told Daybreak Alberta host Russell Bowers about connecting to his Indigenous roots through food.

The following is an excerpt from that interview:

Q: Tell me about the inspiration putting this cook book together?

A: At a very young age my mom allowed me into the kitchen, she allowed me to make some mistakes, allowed me to eat a lot of good food that she was making.

And then as I was growing up … in an urban environment, I eventually became a chef, did some training at George Brown in Toronto and then decided to go home, so to speak, and learn "our foods."

Q: What did you learn about "your foods" that you didn't know before you started taking in that greater interest?

David Wolfman - Indigenous Fusion

Chef David Wolfman's new cookbook 'Cooking With The Wolfman: Indigenous Fusion' features dishes inspired by his Indigenous roots. (Michael Kohn)

A: The first question I asked, which is a question I get from everybody, is "what kinds of spices and herbs?"

And I remember talking to a couple of the elders and they said "well, a lot of the herbs and spices were used for medicines," so that was the first thing I learned.

And then they had this huge respect for the food that they ate, which I had never seen before growing up in the city, you know?

Q: Your indigenous roots weren't at the forefront of your childhood, were they?

A: No, they weren't. 

It was a lot of questions and a lot of times my mom would be sitting there, talking about "I really miss back home,'" and she'd be telling stories to us about …the way that they would smoke the salmon …so that was something that was interesting to hear.

Q: How did researching this book change how you were cooking up to that point?

A: It opened up my eyes to see there [are] a number of other ways of harvesting food, even picking the wild rice.

The way [Indigenous peoples] pick the wild rice in the prairies is they would pick it into their canoes and then put seeds back into the marsh so they would grow next year, and then they would leave seeds for the birds. 

It almost seemed there was a part that was missing and now I've found it.

David Wolfman dish

Pictured here is one of Chef David Wolfman's Indigenous fusion creations. (David Wolfman)

Q: If someone sat at your table and you could cook them one meal to introduce them to food in the book, which would you pick?

A: That's like saying "which one of these children is your favourite?"

One of my favourites is the hot smoked salmon that I made, and we had to make it about four of five times unfortunately so I had to eat it all.

It's not that complex, probably the most complicated part is having a smoker.

Q: You have dishes in the book from across the country, what about Albertan recipes?

A: We have a wonderful pemican recipe and Marlene's mom ... that was one of the recipes that was her favourite because she had pemican when she grew up. She's 91 now.

We have a few buffalo recipes in there as well as things like, for example, some rabbit recipes as well.

David Wolfman created dish

Dishes in Chef David Wolfman's newest cookbook draw from his Indigenous heritage and his wife Marlene Finn's Metis background. (David Wolfman)

Q: What's the one cooking tip you would share from this book?

A: Probably the best tip is to actually enjoy the process of it, because when I enjoy what I'm cooking it comes out in the food.


With files from Daybreak Alberta