Chef Joseph Shawana, professor and Indigenous culinary advisor at Ontario’s Centennial College as well as chair of Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations, is interviewed by NAC’s Michael Gauthier on Indigenous cuisine, the origin story of Kūkŭm Kitchen (a Toronto restaurant serving high-end Indigenous cuisine), as well as his future plans.
Chef Shawana was the Resident Chef at the National Arts Centre in the fall of 2021.
Acclaimed Chef Joseph Shawana is Odawa, part of the Three Fires Confederacy. Born and raised in Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve located on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Joseph was brought up knowing that food is life. Starting in the kitchen at the early age of 13, he learned from his mother, who had learned from hers, and quickly fell in love with authentic indigenous cuisine and the way it brings people together.
His classical French training and Aboriginal background combine to create authentic, Native American cuisine executed with world-class culinary technique; full of flavour and never compromising quality over quantity.
Currently, a professor and the Indigenous culinary advisor at Ontario’s Centennial College, Joseph is committed to furthering culinary education in all communities and providing hands-on experience to Indigenous youth by inviting them to work alongside chefs and learn valuable industry applications for sustained development.
As the force behind the high-end Indigenous restaurant, Kūkŭm Kitchen, which won the ‘Best World Cuisine” award in 2019, he was acclaimed for his unique experiments with traditional Indigenous ingredients, many of them wild, including fir tips, sweet-grass and seal.
Chef Shawana is currently the chair of ICAN, the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations. Under his leadership and guidance, ICAN is dedicated to breaking barriers and sharing Indigenous food, culinary and cultural experiences from across Canada with the world.
He was named on the list of Top Ten Chefs of Ontario and has received rave reviews in the New York Times, Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and Food & Wine, to name a few. He is also in great company on Air Canada’s top 20 restaurants in Canada for 2019 and is a sought-after voice on the emergence of Indigenous culinary around the globe.
Michael Gauthier has worked in the arts and hospitality industries for 35 years, his experiences having taken him from his native Sudbury to Montreal to the Okanagan Valley to Ottawa. A graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, Michael wrote children’s theatre for 10 years before embarking on a career as an administrator and entrepreneur. He has been a restaurateur (Le Plateau Bistro, ranked #1 on Trip Advisor for the region of Kelowna), the Executive Director of a French-language cultural centre and, for the National Arts Centre, Restaurant Manager, Guest Service and Events Manager, and now House Manager.
Michael has been published three times in French and once in English. He is thrilled to work in an environment that combines his passion for customer service with his interest in the arts.