Cooking class with Aboriginal focus lets students learn traditional recipes

Students from First Nations across Canada are learning kitchen skills and traditional recipes at a new cooking class with an Indigenous focus at an Ottawa college.

'I want to fine-tune my knowledge so I can pass that on to my nieces, my nephews and my grandson'

Chef Jerome Brasser, far right, shows his students how to carve a carrot using the tournée technique. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Clad in his white uniform, necktie and apron, Connor Roesler is learning how to carve a carrot using the tournée technique.

"I've always heard my father talking about wanting to get a little older and open up his own pub or a restaurant," says Roesler, 18, from the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation near Golden Lake, Ont.

Jennifer Nattuk is from Hall Beach, Nunavut. She says she's excited to be taking part in the course. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"So hopefully I could help him pursue that dream and maybe be a chef in his restaurant one day."

Roesler is one of 15 students taking part in the new Indigenous cook pre-apprenticeship program at Ottawa's Algonquin College.

The course teaches basic culinary techniques — knife skills, food preparation, and so on — with an added focus on Aboriginal culture and cuisine.

Wabano Centre chef leads group

The students have come from nearby First Nations like Kitigan Zibi in western Quebec and Akwesasne near Cornwall, Ont., as well as from other communities across Canada.

They're being led by Jerome Brasser, the executive chef at Ottawa's Wabano Centre.

Brasser, who cooks at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health in Ottawa, is teaching the class. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

"They'll be able to get into the field and start cooking for either (a) their reserves, or (b) opening up their own establishments, restaurants and go into hotels," Brasser told Ottawa Morning's Hallie Cotnam.

Faith Urlocker Lalonde is another student in the class. She grew up with adoptive parents and only discovered she was Aboriginal a few years ago.

"When I heard about this program I just thought, it's probably going to help me get in touch with who I am," said Urlacker Lalonde.

"I've gone through life not fitting in anywhere, and going from one group of friends to another ... and I never knew why."

'Awesome to see our youth learning'

Candace McCorkell is from the Oneida Nation of the Thames near London, Ont.

Connor Roesler, from the Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, is one of 15 students taking part in the Indigenous cook pre-apprenticeship program at Algonquin College. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

She says she hopes to pass on what she learns to the rest of her family.

"I've been cooking most of my life. I'm a traditional cook. I've been trying to get employment as a chef and the truth is, you need papers. And the other reason is, we're losing our culture, our Indigenous foods, and I want to fine-tune my knowledge so I can pass that on to my nieces, my nephews and my grandson.

"I think it's awesome to see our youth learning the culture of our indigenous foods, because it's rare."

Dane Atkinson was learning knife skills with his classmates this week. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)
Vanessa Gopher came to Ottawa from the Saulteaux First Nation near Saskatoon to take part in the course. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)
Kate Bouska came from Baker Lake, Nunavut, to participate. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

With files from the CBC's Hallie Cotnam