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Sharing Indigenous storytelling and community through food

Program brings Chef Joseph Shawana to campus to share the foundations of Indigenous foods systems, ingredient history, and methods of modernizing and de-colonizing Indigenous recipes.

Indigenous chef and Queen's Hospitality Services members.
Chef Joseph Shawana, front centre, offered education and training to residence dining hall staff and guest chefs, during a recent visit to Queen's. From left to right: Chef Jeremy Pastell (Aramark), Chef Adrian Salalac (Aramark), Chef Shawana, Shawn Kermeen (Cook, Ban Righ dining hall), Chef John Sousa (Executive Chef Ban Righ dining hall), Colin Johnson (Campus Executive Chef), Kevin Silva (Sous Chef, Ban Righ dining hall), Chef Peggy O'Rourke (Aramark). 

Students eating at Ban Righ and Leonard dining halls last month had the opportunity to learn about – and sample – Indigenous cuisine and stories.

Queen’s University Hospitality Services presented Traditions Storytelling Through Food, a two-day event featuring a visit from Chef Joseph Shawana who offered education and training to residence dining hall staff and guest chefs in understanding the foundations of Indigenous foods systems, ingredient history, and methods of modernizing and de-colonizing Indigenous recipes. The events also featured learning opportunities for students through engagement with Chef Shawana while discussing the different ingredients used in the recipes, and the story behind certain dishes.

Chef Shawana is Odawa, part of the Three Fires Confederacy. He was born and raised in Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve located on Manitoulin Island in Ontario. Chair of Indigenous Culinary Associated Nations (ICAN) and instructor at Centennial College, Chef Shawana trained in classical French cuisine, and his cooking infuses classical French techniques with Native American cuisine.

“By coming in to do these kinds of events, not only do I get to tell my personal story, but I get to tell the history of our food,” says Chef Shawana. “I try to get all my influences from the stories I hear, the ingredients I know, and the whole history of where I come from. A lot of these students don’t know what these types of food are, or feel disconnected from where their food comes from, so I hope I have opened up a few doors for them for learning about the true history of Canada.”

The event began with a feature dinner menu at Leonard Hall on March 23 and continued with a pop-up lunch at Ban Righ Hall on March 24. Students learned about Indigenous ingredients, histories, and recipes at multiple food stations. Chef Shawana shared the many facets of Indigenous food, culinary and cultural experiences across each region of the country.

“Hospitality Services staff were excited to be part of this amazing in-person event where they had an opportunity to cook and serve the Indigenous menu created by Chef Shawana using authentic ingredients and spices,” says Campus Executive Chef Colin Johnson. “It was not only a great experience for them to work side by side with Chef Shawana, but inspiring to hear the great student feedback. We are looking forward to planning a similar event next year in March during the Indigenous Week celebrations on campus.”

Chef Shawana and ICAN aim to connect, influence, and share community through genuine Indigenous food experiences to envision a world where Indigenous food is not a dish served for one, but a cultural feast and celebration of nations.

For more on Indigenous culinary practices and community building, visit the ICAN website, as well as Chef Shawana’s Instagram.

For more food events, visit the Queen’s University Hospitality Services Facebook page.