Bannock lovers rejoice! Mi'kmaw chef opens Indigenous restaurant in Montreal
It will be the only Indigenous-run restaurant currently operating on the island of Montreal
Mi'kmaw chef Norma Condo's motto throughout life has been "don't give up" and it's paying off as she prepares to welcome hungry customers at the grand opening of her restaurant, Miqmak Catering Indigenous Kitchen.
It will be the only Indigenous-owned restaurant on the island of Montreal, according to Aboriginal Tourism Quebec.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," said Condo.
"It's been my passion. I'm here for all the other Indigenous people because I know there's nothing like it around here."
Condo is from Gesgapegiag, a Mi'kmaw community on Quebec's Gaspé coast, about 500 km east of Quebec City. She's been running a catering company out of the restaurant in Montreal's Pierrefonds borough since November 2018, and will be opening up the small dining room as of June 29.
Laurence Lainé, a representative of Aboriginal Tourism Quebec, said she's happy to see Condo's business flourishing and for an Indigenous-run restaurant to open its doors in Montreal.
"Montreal is the main door for tourism, so to have a presence in this big city is very good for Indigenous tourism," said Lainé.
"There is not a lot of representation of culinary restaurants in the big cities, but it's the right place to catch a lot of people's attention and interest regarding traditional cooking."
Serving Indigenous cuisine
Condo will be serving a set menu of Indigenous plates at her restaurant such as wild rice, a three sisters casserole of corns, beans and squash and her favourite, bannock, or luskinikn in Mi'kmaw.
"That's what our ancestors left behind for us. Most of my recipes are natural roots ingredients and that's what our ancestors used. I'm going to continue that tradition," said Condo.
The one thing missing? Moose meat.
In most provinces, it's illegal to serve wild game in a restaurant. In 2014, Quebec launched a pilot project offering game to select chefs under strict rules of approved hunters, inspections and approved abattoirs.
It doesn't leave any options for chefs like Condo, who receives moose meat from hunters in Gesgapegiag.
"I can't serve it out of my own restaurant, unfortunately," said Condo.
"It's sad for all the indigenous chefs out because that's our food."
Her community's food is where her interest in cooking stems from, watching her grandmother make traditional meals for their large family.
"My grandmother inspired me to what I'm doing today," said Condo. "She always told me not to give up."
The mother of five's journey to become a chef has not been an easy one. Condo overcame many obstacles to complete an 18-month culinary program in Montreal, including the death of her husband just weeks before the program started.
"Not giving up as brought me to a lot of open doors, and look what I have today," she said.
"This has been my passion, this has been my dream to have my own kitchen and serve Indigenous people."