Six Nations – Renowned Gwich’in/Tuscarora Chef, Rich Francis, who is also currently starring in Top Chef Canada, was at The Bears Inn last Saturday evening, cooking up a delicious culinary masterpiece for the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.
On the menu was: Beets with Spring Vegetables with Rich’s signature Sweetgrass Vinaigrette, Butternut Squash & Apple Soup with Seared Scallops and Niagara Bruschetta, Bison Ribeye with Grains, Morel & Cloudberry and Boar Bacon Corn Bread & Maple Walnut Ice Cream.
Chef Francis produced lots of smiling faces and taste buds were watering as each plate was served to nothing less then perfection. Francis gave an interview to Two Row Times as he was preparing his four-course meal. When asked how we would describe being on Top Chef Canada, Francis stated it was, “Pretty intense for sure.” Although he wasn’t surprised at how intense it was, as after all, “it is a cooking competition.”
Even though Francis’ culinary strength is in Aboriginal cuisine, he is very familiar with international flavours as well, which helped him stay in the competition last week when everyone was given an Asian dish to prepare.
When asked if he gets nervous cooking in front of the judges on the show, he stated that he did not. However, cooking for David Chang and Masaharu Morimoto was ‘nerve racking,’ for him. Rich’s wife Sherisa was also at The Bears Inn, giving him a hand. When asked what her favorite food was that her husband cooks for her, Sherisa was quick to say, “Braised short ribs.”
Francis is the owner of Aboriginal Culinary Concepts, a catering business that he started back in 2010. Since his debut on Top Chef Canada, Francis has seen a spike in his business not only in the Aboriginal community but the non-Aboriginal community as well and from all over, “Niagara on the Lake, the GTA and Dundas to name a few,” explained Francis.
Francis is currently planning on opening his own restaurant in Ottawa. When asked what type of food will be on his menu, Francis stated, “Basically everything that I am serving tonight, is generally the type of food I will serve in my restaurant.”
Francis told the Two Row Times that there are 10 episodes altogether for Top Chef Canada and they have all been filmed. Not only is he the first Indigenous Chef to be featured on the show, but is the first Native Chef to apply to be on the show as well. He stated, the interview process was very grueling as he had to go through five stages which combined, took about a month and a half.
When asked if he still gets nervous before presenting his culinary cuisine, he sated he does not, “I treat everyone like a priority, no one is better then anyone else. I try and promote appetite for my customers also. I bring up tastes and smells from their childhood and that is the biggest satisfaction in this job for me.”
With a group of about 15 people, the Native Canadian Center of Toronto (NCCT) enjoyed a retreat at The Bears Inn last weekend while completing training for Non-Violent Crisis Intervention and Policy Development for their new Supportive Housing Program of Toronto. NCCT’s ENAGB Program Manager, Cynthia Bell stated that the mandate of the NCCT is to, ‘help our youth. I have an awesome team that I have and everyone is all doing an amazing job. Our youth are getting jobs, going to school and getting trained.’