The Caldwell First Nation has a restaurant just outside Point Pelee National Park, and it has decided to make some major changes that includes a new menu featuring Indigenous fusion food.
The community has hired a new chef for the restaurant at The Happy Snapper.
Chef Bill Alexander is well known in the culinary world — he’s a food advisor for the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada and West Jet. He’s the one creating the new menu.
“One of the things that’s going to be really interesting is you’re going to be able to come in and eat and then learn, so our experiences are going to be a lot more interactive in terms of why an Ingredient is Indigenous and what we did and how it’s doctored into our overall culture,” he said.
Alexander was trained for about ten years in classic French cuisine, he said. But he got the most joy from the teachings of his mother and grandmother of Mohawk descent in Ontario.
“It really spoke to me as a chef and I realized we had so many special things within our Indigenous culture and community,” he said. “It led to this idea of ‘Well, would people be interested in our cuisine?'”
While he’s been working in Calgary, Alexander has travelled all over the country teaching young chefs about Indigenous cuisine and working to incorporate other cultures into his fusion recipes.
“For somebody like myself who has been travelling around the world and teaching and really trying to bring Indigenous cuisine to a shareable accessible point for everyone, it was really exciting to think the possibilities and outcome of aligning with a forward thinking driven First Nation could really have an impact,” he said.
LISTEN | Hear more from Alexander about what kind of menu to expect:
“Visitors are looking for an experience that is genuine, where they can connect with people and come out of a vacation as a better person or learning about where they were,” said Kyra Cole, the band’s economic development officer.
“We would be the first indigenous fusion restaurant south of Toronto.”
Cole said the restaurant saw a “modest” growth each year for Caldwell First Nation, but this initiative was about more than money.
“It was the thought of doing something different and something more exciting and really that opportunity as a community to share good, healthy food and stories in a genuine way that made us make that switch and something that aligned more with our value system,” said Cole.
Alexander said he before coming to visit the restaurant, he had never been further south in Ontario than London. He said he was impressed by the area and The Happy Snapper’s location.
“From a chef perspective it was kind of like walking into a dream cooler of opportunities, especially when my mindset is of so much on food and where natural food comes from,” he said.
“It’s nothing but potential, it’s beautiful.”
A complete gut of the restaurant will take place before residents of Windsor-Essex will be able to enjoy the new food coming next spring.