Haudenosaunee chef Rich Francis worked the fine–dining circuit and became the first Indigenous chef to compete and place on Top Chef Canada (Season 4). But it wasn’t until he was laid up for six months following a car accident in 2010 that his life’s path became clear: “re–write the whole agenda of colonialized Indigenous food.” Francis stars in the Storyhive series Red Chef Revival, which explores how Indigenous culture is being reclaimed and reinvented through food. We sat down with the chef and restaurateur before a trip to Toronto for the screening of the third episode of Red Chef Revival at the inaugural Toronto Food Film Fest in October 2019.
enRoute What is Indigenous cuisine and what are the misconceptions surrounding it?
Rich Francis I’m still trying to define what it is as I continue on my healing journey of dismantling the systems of oppression that have kept us where we are for far too long. I can’t tell you what it is, but I can tell you what it’s not. In the restaurant I’m opening on the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory next year there will be no bannock, for example, because that’s part of the colonial system. It’s food that is rooted in trauma. It’s not good for our health, but people love it. It soothes and comforts us, but then so do drugs and alcohol.
By Nancy Matsumoto
Photo by Black Rhino Creative
January 2, 2020