Catching up with Chef Joseph Shawana, TL Insider’s Chef-in-Residence for December
TL Insider’s chef-in-residence for December is Chef Joseph Shawana, Chair of Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations and a Professor at Centennial College. Born and raised in Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve located on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, he was brought up knowing that food is life. Chef Shawana has been named one of the top ten chefs in Ontario and won the ‘best world cuisine’ award in 2019 with his restaurant Ku Kum Kitchen, in Toronto, beating over 33,000 restaurants. Chef Shawana’s food philosophy stems from his deep-rooted Indigenous heritage that amplifies each story that is tied to each plate he makes. We caught up with him to learn more about Indigenous cuisine, and what he has in store for the TL Insider Chef’s Pantry.
How did you get started in the food world?
As a child, I was always around food. My mother and grandmother cooked the most delicious meals and always inspired me. By the time I turned 13, I was cooking all by myself. I always wanted to cook, and I’m glad my profession aligns with my passion. Besides being the culinary advisor at Centennial College, I’m also the chair of the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations.
Tell us about Indigenous cuisine. What is your favourite dish?
Indigenous cuisine involves cooking with the seasons and living off the land. It’s regional, and the ingredients vary from coast to coast. For example, you can find seal meat in the north, and the west is famous for delicious salmon. A favourite dish of mine is pine needle sorbet.
Has the cuisine evolved over time?
There are places that still use 100 per cent traditional cooking methods, and techniques such as air-drying and smoking vary wherever you go. Nowadays, more modern equipment is being used, but it can also help you keep the traditions alive.
How are you adjusting to the new normal?
The shift to virtual has really affected the hospitality industry. As a chef, I was always on the go, but everything has changed. The good thing is that people are getting more time with their families. With more time comes a lot of self-awareness as well. We should focus on restarting our lives on a positive note.
As this month’s chef-in-residence, you will be hosting a virtual cooking class. What’s in store for viewers?
I’ll be sharing a recipe. There will be pine, seasonal roots, rosehip syrup and more. You can order the Feast Bundle through TL Insider Chef’s Pantry this month.
What advice do you give to budding chefs?
Learn from the elders. They have stories to tell and history to share. True, rich history lies in conversations. Look outside of textbooks and the world is yours to explore.
Favourite restaurant in Toronto: Antler
Favourite ingredient to cook with: root vegetable
Kitchen must-haves: knife, cutting board and salt