Songhees Nation serves up traditional recipes, and hits the streets of Victoria in a food truck

A new culinary arts program offered through the Songhees Nation is bringing traditional Indigenous recipes back into the kitchen.
The Songhees Seasfood and Steam food truck hit the streets of Victoria earlier this month. Gary Henry, said it was his dream to work on a food truck. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

Originally published May 20, 2018

A new culinary arts program offered through the Songhees Nation is bringing traditional Indigenous recipes back into the kitchen. 

"We just did a big event last month, where we worked with stinging nettle, and we made a dressing, and there were soups, so we're bringing back a lot of the traditional foods that the elders remember," said head baker Rachel Robinson.

"Everyone wants their grandmother's recipes to come back."
Head baker Rachel Robinson, is a Red Seal chef. She is helping chef Dave Rogers with the culinary arts program. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

The program is a collaboration with Camosun College, and offers 25 students a chance to learn how to cook, with the potential of becoming professional chefs. 

The students are being taught by some of the best chefs in the industry, including executive chef David Rogers.

Rogers said the program aims to teach students professional cooking techniques, but will incorporate traditional foods that they forage.

The program will also utilize fruits and vegetables grown on the rooftop garden at the Songhees Wellness Centre — a building in the reserve that houses the community's government and essential services.
Rosanna talks to Diane Sam, Songhees Cultural Centre Team Leader, about the new rooftop garden. Some of the produce grown in the garden is given to the new culinary arts program. (Stephanie Cram/CBC)

"We were very fortunate to have our Kwum Kwum Lelum, our after school program, work with a handful of elders to [grow] various herbs and vegetables," said Diane Sam, who is the Songhees Cultural Centre team leader.

"We have what's called Wellness Wednesday, where we have fruits and vegetables that go out to the community, that help promote healthy eating."

Launching a food truck

Another initiative the community has launched is the Songhees Seafood and Steam food truck.

"One thing I've always wanted to do … was start working on a food truck," said Gary Henry, who went from doing an apprenticeship under Chef Rogers to working on the truck.

Executive chef Dave Rogers is teaching the students of the culinary arts program. He also helped launch the food truck, and designed the menu. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The food truck serves a variety of dishes, including bison tacos, BBQ beef brisket, wild salmon burgers and fish and chips. Henry said what he likes best about working on the food truck is getting to see the reactions on peoples' faces when they see the food.

"When we drive by in the food truck, we see the kids waving, it brightens up their day," said Henry. "You get to see so many people, compared to working in a kitchen."

The food truck's bison burger, which comes with orange and cranberry mustard aioli. (Michael McArthur/CBC)