Former Top Chef Canada finalist wants to redefine Aboriginal cuisine

Saskatoon's Rich Francis, a former Top Chef Canada finalist, is hoping to redefine Aboriginal cuisine at a new restaurant he's working to open be focusing on dishes comprised of "pre-colonial" ingredients.

Rich Francis focuses on pre-colonial ingredients

Rich Francis first made a name for himself as a Top Chef Canada finalist. (Josh Lynn)

At Seventh Fire: Indigenous Cuisine, the restaurant Saskatoon chef Rich Francis plans to open, you won't find bannock on the menu.

"There's nothing wrong with bannock, I think for the most part bannock has this kind of pre-conceived notion that it is Aboriginal cuisine," said Francis during an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

"When the colonial era and stuff like that happened, we were given rations and stuff like that and that's where the bannock came from."

Francis, a former Top Chef Canada finalist, has traveled to several Indigenous communities across Canada to try and learn how food was prepared before Europeans stepped foot on the continent.

This North American, "pre-colonial" cuisine is what he's hoping to focus on in the kitchen.

"You're not going to find [these recipes] in a history book because that is the colonial lens that everyone looks through, and the way that you're going to avoid that is you're going to actually go to the people that have lived and survived everything," explained Francis.

To bring his vision to reality, Francis faces some challenges because there aren't industry precedents for many of the traditional techniques he intends to employ.

You're not going to find [these recipes] in a history book.- Rich Francis

"For instance, preserving venison in the ground, we can't do that, so from an artistic standpoint I can't just do my vision fully," said Francis.

The idea has garnered interest from the Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority who are providing support and guidance to Francis.

But for Francis, his planned restaurant is about much more than getting good reviews and creating mouth-watering dishes.

"I think there's a lot of cultural responsibility attached to it. As a chef, I'm no longer just cooking for people now, I've been given this responsibility to kind of blaze a trail."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning