Cooking with the Wolfman: Indigenous Fusion

By Sam Laskaris

TORONTO – It certainly didn’t take long for highly regarded Indigenous chef David Wolfman to earn an accolade for his debut book.
Cooking With The Wolfman: Indigenous Fusion was released throughout Canada in October. And Wolfman, a member of British Columbia’s Xaxli’p First Nation, has already won a prestigious award for his literary work.
Earlier this month the book, which Wolfman co-wrote with his wife Marlene Finn, won the Best Book of the Year for Canada (English) category from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
The book will now compete internationally in the Best of the World category. The global winner will be announced at the Gourmand Awards, set for May 26 in Yantai, China.
“It was unexpected but wonderful,” Wolfman said of his Canadian cookbook victory award.
Wolfman said he has tried to determine how many others were in the same category nationally but officials have told him that information is confidential.
“One of my friends said just say thank you and accept the award,” Wolfman said.
What is known, however, is the fact books from 205 countries are eligible for the international Gourmand Awards, one of the most noteworthy accomplishments a cookbook can garner.
Wolfman, a 56-year-old who lives in Toronto, is no stranger to the cooking world.
He has been a distinguished culinary arts professor at Toronto’s George Brown College since 1994.
And from 1999 until earlier this year he was the host and executive producer of Cooking with the Wolfman, a program which aired nationally on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).
Though the show is no longer on APTN, it continues to air in the United States on a pair of networks, California-based FXN (First Nations Experience) and NativeFlix, another California-based channel offering Indigenous-related content.
Wolfman said a hectic schedule, which also includes culinary consulting and catering ventures, prevented him from writing a cookbook earlier.
“It’s not as simple as getting a stack of recipes and saying let’s send these to the publisher,” said Wolfman, adding writing the book turned out to be a 30-month project.
Cooking with the Wolfman is much more than just a cookbook with Indigenous recipes.
Besides cooking techniques, it also includes plenty of Indigenous history relating to food as well as personal culinary relationships from both Wolfman and Finn, who is Metis.
Wolfman said the book will not only appeal to Indigenous people.
“The way we wrote is that if you are an Indigenous person or if you are a foodie or if you are just a person that wants to learn about Indigenous people then this is for you,” he said. “Each recipe has a bit of a teaser and a story to it.”
Finn believes an Indigenous cookbook will be well received. Though the book is available now in Canada it will not be released in the United States until next April.
“Game meat, game birds and fish are generally low in fat and high in protein, which is appealing to people looking for a change in diet,” she said. “A lot of First Nations are diabetic, so they are returning to hunting, fishing and foraging in order to lower their blood pressure, their salt and sugar intake and eliminate processed food.”
Finn added there’s also another reason why Indigenous foods have become more popular.
“From a social perspective, Indigenous cuisine is trendy since it’s all about eating local and making that personal connection with food sources, which is good for the environment,” she said.
As for what he most likes to cook while he’s home, Wolfman said it’s difficult to narrow it down.
“There’s a lot of go-to meals,” he said. “Salmon was one of my official ones for years and years and years. But buffalo meat has been lately.”
And as for one of his favourite recipes from his book, Wolfman said that would be a hot-smoked salmon.
“It’s because I have a smoker at home now,” he said. “I’ve been doing it a lot lately. I think it’s because it was my mom’s family tradition.”