Whitehorse cooking festival transforming Yukon eating, chef says

'Eat, drink and travel, so it's not so bad,' says Eric Patement, the founder of a Vancouver culinary tourism company that's in Whitehorse for the fourth-annual Yukon Culinary Festival.

'As a kid growing up in Whitehorse you were kind of used to UHT milk and frozen peas and corn'

The Yukon Culinary Festival includes a tour of the Fireweed Community Market. (Michelle Doucette/Yukon Culinary Festival)

A head chef in Whitehorse says the city's culinary festival is transforming the way Yukoners cook and eat their food.

Carson Schiffkorn, owner and chef of Inn on the Lake at Marsh Lake, says Yukon food has changed over the years — and that's partly because of the festival.

He says the festival itself has shifted over its four-year history; from introducing southern cooking to Yukoners, to featuring Yukon chefs and Yukon foods.

A 1930s era menu from the S.S. Klondike Yukon River sternwheeler (Michelle Doucette/Yukon Culinary Festival)

The sternwheelers menu, which was part of a "heritage night" on Saturday at the festival, included mostly Yukon-sourced dishes like Marsh-Lake whitefish and veal from Pelly Farms, Schiffkorn said.

"You know, as a kid growing up in Whitehorse you were kind of used to UHT milk and frozen peas and corn, and throw in couple of carrots or something," he said.

"It wasn't the sort of culinary delights we can access today."

Eric Pateman, president and founder of Edible Canada — a Vancouver-based culinary tourism company — says he's been to Yukon about 16 times in three years.

He says Yukoners can be proud of their "delights," especially their gardens.

Dawson-City-grown tomatoes "are some of the best I've had anywhere on the planet," Pateman said.

Skagway, Alaska, chef Marco Desmond (left) and Eric Patemen at the 2015 Yukon Culinary Festival are back in Whitehorse for this year's event. (Michelle Doucette/Yukon Culinary Festival)

And he says soon all of the North will get to shine when his company, in conjunction with Whitehorse-based Air North, does a nine-day charter across the North next summer, stopping in communities with some of Canada's top chefs.

Pateman says the trip is meant to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday.

He says Canadians of all backgrounds — beginning with Indigenous cultures to recent immigrants — are coming up with their own distinctive cooking.

"We're starting to put feelings into the flavours, we're trying to actually figure out how do we incorporate all of these amazing cultural elements into the foods of what Canada is," Pateman said.

"I think that's what we are today and that's where we're going in the future."

This weekend's Yukon Culinary Festival in Whitehorse ends Sunday night with a "northern affair" at the Yukon opulence dinner.

With files from Paul Tukker and Tara McCarthy