Miyumiichisuu: A taste of traditional Cree cuisine for Montreal en Lumière

Cree students from the professional culinary program in Waswanipi, Que., are in Montreal this week as part of Montreal en Lumière.

Eight aspiring chefs from the Cree Nation are part of a culinary fusion at Portus 360 restaurant

Culinary student Iris Awashish works in the kitchen of Montreal's Portus 360 restaurant. (Susan Bell/CBC)

Miyumiichisuu means "enjoy your meal" in East James Bay Cree.

Eight Cree cooking students and their teacher shared the expression and helped prepare a meal inspired by traditional Cree cooking this week as part of Montreal en Lumière, a winter festival in the city with a focus on food, performing arts and outdoor activities.

The students are from different communities in the Cree Nation, all studying professional cooking at the Sabtuan Regional Vocational Training Centre in Waswanipi, Que.

But for two days this week they worked in the kitchen of Helena Loureiro, head chef and owner of Portus 360, a revolving portuguese restaurant high atop Montreal.

Culinary student Renee Blacksmith, left, with instructor Jocelyn Myre. Blacksmith, is one of eight Cree culinary students Montreal as part of Montreal en Lumière this week. (Submitted by Irene Neeposh)

"It's [about] mixing our traditional cooking with portuguese cooking," said student Iris Awashish from Mistissini, who was busy making canapés with her classmate Agnes Kawapit.

"I love it, actually. I love food. It's fun working the kitchen, especially if you want to work in the industry."

The Cree students, along with their teacher Jocelyn Myre, helped prepare a six-course meal featuring ingredients such as Labrador tea, berries, traditional dumplings and bannock, alongside fish and traditional meats like hare, venison and goose.

"I find [the collaboration] super interesting," said chef Loureiro, adding it's the first time she's collaborated with Indigenous cooks.

"It's different from what I do every day. I learned things. My team learned things. It's the magic of this festival."

Helena Loureiro, head chef and owner Portus 360, with Cree school board chair Kathleen J. Wootton. (Submitted by Irene Neeposh)

The collaboration between Myre, his students and Loureiro came together with the help of Jean-Paul Grappe, a well-known French chef, culinary teacher and author in Montreal.

The menu was created in January, when Loureiro visited the vocational school in Waswanipi to work on different recipes with Myre and his students.

"[It's good] to be able to mix up our recipes to create another way," said Myre. "Like a consommé with hare with the siipaai [traditional dumplings] in it. They would never do that in the South. And we [in the North] would never do it with consommé."

"[The students] get real-life experience with a big group and seeing how a great chef can work," said Myre, adding they received great feedback from those who came to the event.

"They are proud of what they are doing."

Hare consommé with traditional dumplings, a fusion of Cree and southern cuisine. (Submitted by Irene Neeposh)