Step into the white and grey art deco–style Whiskeyjack Art House in downtown Edmonton to be greeted by the smell of Cree Coffee wafting in the air, mingling with the sweet–savoury scent of chef Scott Jonathan Iserhoff’s three berry brisket barbecue sandwich and duck stew. This is Pei Pei Chei Ow (pronounced “pe–pe–s–chew”), a mostly takeout café, food and education company that’s just one aspect of an immersive cocoon of Indigenous cuisine, art and culture. Artist Lana Whiskeyjack’s art gallery anchors the space, and you’ll find Indigenous–made art, jewellery and pantry items for sale as well.
As a young teen, Iserhoff’s favourite show was Cooking with the Wolfman because First Nations chef David Wolfman “was the only person I could relate to, who had the same skin colour as me, who had a platform, and talked about smoking wild meats and returning to our native diet.” But there was little Iserhoff could relate to at culinary school in London, Ontario, so he dropped out. It was while cooking at Edmonton’s top–rated Uccellino that he realized that he had tired “of cooking other people’s food.” The support of his Ukrainian–born wife Svitlana and a “weird dream” (“I was cooking at Uccellino, and a moose came in, this big animal, and it urinated in my expensive olive oil”) led to a course correction.