With the blue sky above and melting snow and mud underfoot, competitors faced off in the first annual Tsilhqot’in Master Chef Challenge held during Spring Break at Tl’esqox First Nation west of Williams Lake.
The brainchild of Kelsie Marchand, an Indigenous infant development consultant for Denisiqi Service Society, the event stipulated that mothers or grandmothers join with youth to teach them some traditional meal preparation.
“Our main objectives were to bring children into learning about traditional foods and cooking,” Marchand said as four teams of cooks began preparing meals in a parking lot near the community rink. “I’ve gotten the opportunity to taste a lot of their food at cultural camps and it is amazing.”
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Each team was given three ingredients from the land — deer meat, salmon and huckleberries — donated by community members.
Teams had to have children included, and the children were there to learn and be mentored by the women who have been cooking off the land since they were children.
“They have two hours to cook, all the food has to be cooked over the fire with no electricity allowed, and they each had to bring their own cooking equipment,” Marchand said.
The teams came from Tsi Del Del (Redstone), Tl’etinqox (Anaham) and Tl’esqox (Toosey).
“We put out an invitation on social media and put up posters and contacted people directly,” Marchand said.
Joyce Charleyboy with her grandchildren Winoah Cooper, Makiya Cooper and Tommy Lulua emerged the winners for their deer stew, bannock and salad featuring greens and huckleberries.
Her team’s name was Ki Del Del which translates as Red Willow, the area where Charleyboy grew up.
“I had chilies with lettuce, huckleberries and green onions in the salad,” Makiya said.
As for the stew, Winoah said she chopped celery, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and deer meet for it.
Charleyboy said the secret to her bannock’s success was the temperature of the water, to which Makiya whispered, “hush, don’t tell the secret.”
The children said they planned to use the $1,000 prize for a holiday.
Elder Bella Alphonse said she voted for Charleyboy’s team’s food because it reminded her of the stew she ate as a child.
“The stew was just exactly how my ?inkwel (mom) used to make it, not heavy on the spices but had that certain taste to it,” Alphonse said.
Team ?Elagi Del Del (Red Flowers) won for the best name and was made up of Tia Sellars, Tashina Johnny, Yellicyia Elkins and Natyra Elkins. They won a basket of goodies.
Their meal consisted of a deer meat and bacon chili, salmon on cheese and chive bannock, and huckleberry sauce on bannock.
Youth judge Cordell Elkins chose team Alice Johnny and Sophie Tenale’s team for the children’s choice — easy to eat and flavour for children to eat.
With help from Johnny’s grandson Kyler Johnny and granddaughter Giaunna Johnny, they cooked barbecued deer meat with barbecue sauce made by Kyler, bannock and deer stew.
Marchand said funding for the competition came from the First Nations Health Authority’s winter wellness funding opportunity.
Team ?inkwel Bed (Mother’s food) made up of Trena Haller and her daughter Liz Rosette prepared deer stew, bannock and a salad.