A cooking program opens doors for First Nations

Adapted from The Vancouver Sun by Nancy Carson
Level 2

Vancouver loves local food.
But there is little First Nations food in the city.
Chef Andrew George Jr.
hopes to change this.
In early November,
the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (slay-wa-tuth)
in North Vancouver celebrated.

The first class graduated from
its own professional chef’s program.
And local chef George is
the lead teacher in the program.
This first class had
12 First Nations students, ages 20 to 53.
Six were Tsleil-Wastuth
and six were from outside B.C.
For the first time in years and years,
people ate elk at the ceremony.

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The head of the program
George, from Smithers, B.C.,
went to Vancouver Community College.
Later, he worked at the Chateau Whistler Hotel.
He also worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver.

The Nation hopes the cooking course will help
aboriginal youth stay in school.
Then the youth will make smart career choices.
George just returned from a 25-day food tour in the U.S.
He is part of Super Chefs of the Universe.
Super Chefs show children how
to prepare and eat healthy food.
The chefs want to help fight childhood obesity.

Food in First Nations culture
Feasts are part of all First Nations celebrations.
First Nations people welcomed newcomers
to their lands with food.
First Nations people are also very artistic.
And they are hard workers, says George.
George thinks these skills are just right for becoming a chef.

About the program
Students who enter must have at least Grade 10.
The band gives the youth extra tutoring.
The first level of the program is 28 weeks long.
This level is about aboriginal cooking.
Students learn smoking and drying of salmon.
They learn about traditional ingredients such as
herring roe or kelp, seaweed, seafood and wild foods.
If they wish, students can continue
to second and third-level programs.

The graduates
Eugene Crain, 53, is a Cree from Saskatoon.
He followed his parents’ dream
and went to university.
After his parents died,
he wanted to follow his own dreams.
He wanted to act
and to reconnect with his culture.
Crain says cooking helps him do this.

Crain remembers
“I remember hunting with my father for deer.
We hunted, carved, butchered and cooked.
I fished and cooked with the elders.
It was just something I had forgotten about.”
Crain will take levels 2 and 3 of the program.
He says, “My goal is to be a chef.”
He likes making tasty aboriginal food.

Future of the culinary program
Soon, there will be a restaurant run
by students from the program.
Chef George talks about cooking,
“It’s comforting. It’s nurturing.”