Red Chef Revival came to the Chilcoltin to film an episode in Nemiah Valley this month.
From Sept. 7 to 10 Chef Marie-Cecile Nottaway, better known as Chef Cezin, visited the Cariboo-Chilcotin’s Nemiah Valley to learn local traditional cooking methods.
Red Chef Revival takes three Indigenous chefs from across the country and sends them to different locations to learn local traditional methods of preparing food. Each host will do two episodes, designed to not only preserve First Nations’ customs but also to promote and celebrate them.
“We’re being taught what’s there in the area to forage, what’s there to learn and why it’s important to preserve this way of life,” Nottaway said.
A mother of two from Quebec, Nottaway owns her own catering business in Quebec and is a member of the Algonquin people.
She found there to be some similarities between her own heritage and that of the Xeni Gwet’in people but also some important and interesting differences.
Also marking her first time in B.C., Nottaway first heard of the Xeni Gwet’in a few years back when they, along with other bands of the Tsilhqot’in people, became the first Indigenous people to win title rights to their traditional land. When actually visiting the land in question, Nottaway described it at a mind-blowing level of beauty.
Everything from the mountains to the rivers took her breath away, according to Nottaway, and she found the people of the valley incredibly warm and welcoming of her and the film crew.
Her first standout experience of the shoot was dipnet fishing, something she described as exhilarating.
“For me, I was just like: ‘Wow this is wicked hard work.’ You’re dipping your ten-foot-net into raging rivers and you’re scooping up salmon. It looks fun but it’s not as easy as it looks, it’s very demanding physically,” Nottaway said.
After obtaining a fish through trading some maple syrup brought from home, Nottaway and her companions set about learning how to cook the fish the traditional way. Camping on the edge of breathtaking Chilko Lake, Nottaway and her companions smoked the fish while cooking the front quarter of a deer.
Gathering some lava rocks, the locals built a fire to heat the rocks over the course of seven to eight hours while digging a two-feet-deep hole in the ground.
Nottaway said they then placed the red-hot rocks in the hole and placed the foil-wrapped maple-seasoned meat atop it.
After insulating it further with wooden boards and sand they completed their natural oven.
“It took about six to eight hours to cook that but when we took it out the meat just kind of fell off the bones, it was just super cool,” Nottaway said.
Nottaway said she thinks people should watch this mini doc-series for education on Indigenous Culture and peoples as much as their food.
“This way you know who we are and I think when you know something, you’re educated on it, there are no stereotypes there anymore, you break down those barriers,” Nottaway said.
Her final takeaway however from the entire experience was how beautiful the Nemiah Valley was throughout her stay. She described it as untouched and pure and wished to offer a big thank you to its people, who accepted her and let her into their lives.
The show is slated to wrap up production in late November to December with a release date not yet set in stone, though Nottaway expects it to be before or just after the year’s end.