The Next Chapter

Why chef Shane M. Chartrand's approach to cooking is rooted in his Indigenous identity

In Cree, tawâw means "Come in, you’re welcome, there’s room." The word is also the title of Chartrand's latest cookbook.
tawâw is a cookbook by chef Shane M. Chartrand with Jennifer Cockrall-King. (Ambrosia, Hilary McDonald)
Listen6:29

In the Cree language, "tawâw" means, "Come in, you're welcome, there's room." The word is also the title of chef Shane M. Chartrand's latest cookbook.

The executive chef at SC Restaurant in Enoch, Alta., includes his award-winning dishes alongside stories of his culinary and personal journey in tawâw.

Chartrand was born to Cree parents and raised by a Métis father and Mi'kmaw-Irish mother. He spent his career exploring the diverse cuisine and stories of Indigenous peoples across Canada, culminating in this collection of over 75 recipes.

Chartand spoke with Shelagh Rogers about why he created tawâw.

Sixties Scoop survivor

"I'm a Sixties Scoop survivor. I'm 44-years-old now. I was taken away and went through foster care so I didn't know my Indigenous identity until I turned 30-years-old. It was catchup time for me. 

"The big thing for me was figuring out my heritage. It was time for me to write a cookbook on Indigenous food."

Shane Chartrand talks to Kathleen Petty about how he first got interested in food, how he discovred it was a way to connect with his heritage; and why his new cookbook — Tawaw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine — is about much more than the recipes. 22:16

Indigenous identity

"My dad's Métis, my mum's Mi'kmaw-Irish and I'm Cree. They let me know that I was Indigenous. What they tried to do was teach me all about the outdoors and all about hunting and fishing.

I learned being a hunter or a fisher doesn't make you more Indigenous to the next person.- Shane Chartrand

"I learned being a hunter or a fisher doesn't make you more Indigenous to the next person, but it was their way of giving back to me in their own way.

"It helped me find out a little bit more about who I was."

Chartrand says while he sees bannock is an important food in Indigenous culture, Indigenous cuisine is also about the land and where the food comes from. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Progressive cuisine

"I regularly make bannock and Indian tacos — they are part of our culture, of course — but we need to look deeper in terms of what defines Indigenous food. This 'carnival food' can't be the only thing that defines us. 

I regularly make bannock and Indian tacos — they are part of our culture, of course — but we need to look deeper in terms of what defines Indigenous food.- Shane M. Chartrand

"We should have more smoke lodges where we cook our own Indigenous food. That's what the book is all about and what I think about all the time. 

"You have to look at the area you're from. This idea provokes emotion — and provokes what Indigenous food is to me."

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      Shane M. Chartrand's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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