Eating & Drinking

Ben Baird teams up with Inuk chef Trudy Metcalfe at Flavours of the North

Ben Baird has been busy. And the chef has got some nasty burns to show for it.

“How did you get those?” I ask the co-owner of Ottawa Streat Gourmet, his scorched hand in a glove.

Caribou bones. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

I’ve come to his prep kitchen on Sheffield Road to meet Inuk chef Trudy Metcalfe and learn more about the Flavours of the North event for which they are collaborating. And maybe to charm my way to tasting whatever it is that’s making the kitchen smell so fabulous.

“Roasting bones,” was the answer to the burning question. But not just any old bones. These are caribou bones, and hundreds of pounds of them. Baird’s about to start a second boil of the roasted bones, and has just finished cutting 500 lbs of mirepoix and potatoes. (So his hand is now both burnt and cramped…) This, in preparation for Flavours of the North, a feast on Parliament Hill this weekend in celebration of our country’s northern foods. It’s part of the twilight cluster of events as the Canada 150 celebrations draw to a close. Admission: Free.

Chef Ben Baird, right hand now protected after burning it by roasting caribou bones, and chef Trudy Metcalfe prepare caribou stew for Flavours of the North, a free event happening Dec. 9 and 10. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

The bones came with 770 lbs of boneless caribou stewing meat, sourced by Metcalfe. Born in Nain, the most northern and largest community in Nunatsiavut, raised in northern Newfoundland, and now an Ottawa resident for the past 30 years, Metcalfe approached her pals at Kivalliq Arctic Foods in Rankin Inlet for enough caribou to feed an estimated Parliament Hill crowd of 10,000 this weekend.

Caribou stew. Photo by Anne DesBrisay

Baird ladles up a taste of the first batch. The stew is quite wonderful, the meat remarkably tender, peppery, perfumed with sage from Baird’s garden, cooked long and slow with onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and potatoes in reduced caribou stock. Truth is, I had two bowls. Metcalfe had one. There should be another 9,997 left for you this weekend, served from the Streat food truck.

When: December 9th and 10th, from 1 pm to 4 pm on Parliament Hill

Cost: Free

Details: Flavours of the North gathers together Canadian Indigenous and non-Indigenous chefs in a celebration of northern foods. Dished up from food trucks will be caribou stew, smoked arctic char chowder, firepit-cooked bannock and traditional Labrador tea, wild blueberry and sweetgrass sherbet. Chuck Hughes will be hosting cooking demonstrations, including one by our own brilliant Parliament Hill chef, Judson Simpson with Christina Nakogee Robertson of Toronto’s Tea-n-Bannock.

Other chef partnerships include Toronto chef Susur Lee with chef Cezin Nottaway of Wawatay Catering, and Vancouver chef Vikram Vij will team up with chef Trudy Metcalfe.