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New Alberta-Manitoba program creating culinary employment opportunities for Metis youth


Officials hope a new cross-provincial culinary education program will help cerate employment and training opportunities for Métis youth.

The program, called Me-yaw-sin Micowin (Good Food), is a collaborative effort from four partners: the Further Education Society of Alberta (FESA), Manitoba Métis Federation, the restaurant Bistro on Notre Dame and RRC Polytech.

The 12-week program is designed specifically with the tourism and government sectors in mind.

It features traditional Métis cooking methods, mentorship, life skills, work experience and referral opportunities.

"We take our expertise in literacy and weave it with indigenous culture and indigenous knowledge that we've gotten from elders and community leaders," said Elizabeth Ojei, the assistant project manager at FESA.

"We've had three successful culinary programs run in Calgary (over) the past three years, so we're taking what we've learnt and we're moving to another province."

Ojei says participants don't need any kitchen experience to enroll in the program, which will introduce them to traditional cooking methods to see if they're interested in pursuing further.

"The goal really is to, hopefully, create a culinary path for indigenous or Metis youth," she said.

Shawna Linklater is a facilitator and trainer for the program, and says learning is done through activities rather than taking notes in a lecture.

"Our elders and ancestors have always taught us orally," she said. "Traditions and culture they tell us by stories, so in that way we also learned, instead of looking at a textbook, you're learning hands-on, and it's not like a classroom setting as much."

Linklater says she'd like to see the Good Food program take off across the country one day because it's proven to be a great way to introduce Metis youth to traditional cooking.

"If you were to talk to any of the learners, they always say that they really enjoyed the learning experience," she said. "And all the different things that they've learned, they take and share that experience."

Dana Crawler enrolled in a similar cooking program hosted in Banff in the summer of 2022.

The 23-year-old started with no kitchen experience and says she enjoyed learning from a chef.

"I was nervous my first two weeks into it," he said. "As the course went on, I started realizing that I'm getting more comfortable and also getting to know my kitchen, my knives and what pan I should use and at what temperature."

Crawler says Manitoba's Metis youth will benefit from the Good Food program, saying he learned a lot from stories behind the dishes, which are made with traditional ingredients and techniques.

"Even when I'm at home cooking, I'm like, 'Oh I use this to use and that, and certain spices with certain things as well too,'" he said. "It's very nice to have that knowledge."

Crawler is working part time at FESA helping other indigenous and Métis youth.

He's also a heritage presenter for Parks Canada at the Cave and Basin historical site in Banff.

While he's not getting paid to cook now, he hopes to in the future.

"The way I see myself is in a kitchen, but not right away," he said. "I want to experience a few other things first, see what I like and what I don't like and I can go back to kitchen and that's where I think I would want to be." Top Stories

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