Cree chef a farmers market success story in Vancouver
Heat Laliberte wants One Arrow Meats to represent the strength and resiliency of Indigenous people
Heat Laliberte loves selling his brand One Arrow Meats at city farmers markets. He likes the atmosphere and loves getting to know the customers who try his hand-cured bacon.
He sees every conversation as an opportunity to connect and consult about his artisanal product.
"I do my sampling at the market, and when I offer my different flavours, I'm able to offer them my story," Laliberte said.
Laliberte's tale is one full of community connection and taking the opportunities presented through them. He was born in Humbolt, Sask. and grew up in Saskatoon.
He was a foster kid adopted into a non-Indigenous family that had struggles with poverty, mental health and addiction.
Laliberte says they didn't have a phone and needed a food bank a lot of the time. He pushed through those years and, at the age of 20, moved to Vancouver, taking a job as a line cook at Moxie's.
"That sort of set the tone for realizing I was able to cook," he said.
Introduced to charcuterie
Laliberte enrolled in Vancouver Community College's culinary arts program and found his calling.
He worked at several high-end hotels and restaurants in the city. At the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, he was introduced to charcuterie and really took to the art of it.
"There's just something about the smell of bacon in the morning and it makes everyone happy," he said.
One Arrow Meats has four flavours of locally-sourced hand-cured bacon. Unlike grocery store bacon, it isn't injected with water or salt to plump it up for the packaging, so it doesn't shrink the same way while cooking.
To found the company, Laliberte took advice offered in the Aboriginal BEST Program at Vancouver's Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society and accessed grants and loans.
He chose the name One Arrow Meats as a symbol of his Cree heritage and his strength to get through any barriers put in front of him.
His goal is to have the bacon distributed through a grocery delivery service.