David Wolfman puts a modern twist on traditional Indigenous food in his new cookbook

The acclaimed chef discusses his cookbook Cooking with the Wolfman with Shelagh Rogers.
David Wolfman is a chef and the star of the APTN program Cooking with the Wolfman. (David Wolfman)

David Wolfman started cooking in his mother's kitchen when he was a child. His family is from Xaxli'p First Nation. Even though David grew up in downtown Toronto, his Nation's traditional food and the stories that go with them became the basis for the cuisine he's developed, which he calls "Indigenous fusion." He and his wife, Marlene Finn, are the authors of Cooking with the Wolfman. This interview originally aired on Dec. 4, 2017.

Capturing the taste of home

"It wasn't until the early 1980s that I started doing research and learning about the foods from my mother's relatives. My mother grew up in Salmon Valley, so all kinds of salmon were eaten. It was rare, but when the fish came down too early and there wasn't any salmon, we had mountain goat. The mountain goat is more of a relative of the antelope in western Canada. Cooking it with spruce tips makes the dish feel like the west coast."

Gathering oral recipes

"One day I decided to go to the Native Centre in Toronto. There, I met all of these Native people. I had no clue there were Native people in Toronto! It's a two-way street. Most of the time I give them cooking demos and they will usually tell me the ways they prepared seal meat or bear. They don't realize I'm just as excited about learning the traditional ways of doing things. It's like our community — we're always sharing stories together."

The meaning of Indigenous foods

"If we eat a particular food over generations, it becomes part of our culture. When you look at inter-tribe trading of foods — the chocolate, potato or anything from Central America that came up — we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us. We're all considered Indigenous all the way down. So fusion is about taking one of our Indigenous cousins' food, style or spice and fusing it together to make it sexy."

David Wolfman's comments have been edited and condensed.