Chef Shane Chartrand (photo: Jerry Jin/Jin Media)

Local Fare: Chef Shane Chartrand Cooks his Roots

By Liane Faulder

When chef Shane Chartrand was a boy, he learned to hunt, fish and forage at his father’s insistence. Back then, it wasn’t a trend; it was a way of life.

“My dad always hung his own animals, skinned them, made pickles, smoked his own meat,” he recalls.

Cree by birth, Chartrand’s Métis parents adopted him from foster care when he was six. His dad pledged to do everything he could to connect Chartrand to his Aboriginal roots.

Chartrand now finds himself drawn to what he calls “progressive indigenous” fare. Most of what he prepares as executive chef at Sage restaurant—located at Enoch Cree Nation in the Marriott River Cree Resort and Casino, just outside Edmonton—can be categorized as steakhouse cooking, but there’s an undeniable earthiness to it. And a few more explicitly Aboriginal options can be found, too, including smoked bison brisket and his popular dessert: bannock served with a reduction of locally grown Saskatoon berries and maple syrup.

Progressive indigenous is also at the heart of Marrow, a cookbook Chartrand has penned and hopes to have published. Among the recipes it collects are his grandfather’s famed galette—an unleavened bread similar to bannock—as well as a dish dubbed “War Paint,” a smoked game bird with fresh horseradish and a bold red pepper handprint to garnish the plate.

“I love edgy, and Aboriginal warriors always had beautiful regalia and war paint, so that dish made sense artistically,” Chartrand says.

Chef Eden Hrabec cooks globally at Canmore’s Crazyweed restaurant

The chef also credits his time at Sage for deepening his Aboriginal knowledge: “I have the luxury of being surrounded by a lot of Nations—Siksika, Blackfoot, Blood. People come to River Cree for meetings, and a lot of elders and members talk to me about their families and their history.”

It’s those links to the past that help connect Chartrand to his culture in the present—both on the table and in his heart.

chef shane chartrand bison skirt steak
Chef Shane Chartrand’s charcoal-grilled bison skirt steak (photo: Shane Chartrand)

A big, flavour-forward stunner for grilling season

1 kg bison skirt steak
2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups apple juice
1 cup garlic, minced
1 cup shallots, minced
4 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup wildflower honey
5 sprigs fresh dill
6 long English cucumbers
1 cup red mustard seeds
2 cups brown sugar

Marinate the skirt steak in apple juice and oil with garlic and shallots, plus salt and pepper to taste, for 36 hours.

Boil 2 cups of apple cider vinegar, with honey and fresh dill, until the liquid has reduced by half. Set aside.

12 great Central Alberta restaurants, eateries and markets

Slice cucumbers to “sweet pickle” thickness. Submerge in the reduced pickling liquid and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cucumbers (make sure some liquid stays on them) and let cool in the fridge.

Rinse mustard seeds and add them to a small pot with remaining apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and 1⁄2 cup of water. Cook on medium heat until seeds are tender.

Slice steak against the grain into long strips. Cook quickly on a charcoal-fired grill, caramelizing the outside. Be careful not to overcook, as skirt steak can be tough.

Serve with mustard seeds and pickles piled on top.

(Serves four)

Visit us online or contact one of our expert travel counsellors to save on your stay at the Edmonton Marriott at River Cree Resort Hotel