By Shafik Meghji

 

When Christa Bruneau-Guenther first started researching Indigenous cuisines “a light-bulb went off”. After owning a daycare for 12 years, she was inspired to open Feast Café Bistro in Winnipeg in 2016, specializing in “modern dishes rooted in traditional First Nation foods”—from bannock pizzas to bison ribs with wild blueberry barbecue sauce. It quickly became a hit and Bruneau-Guenther, who is proto-Cree French‑Métis from the Peguis First Nation, has been central to the growing interest in Indigenous food in Canada in recent years. “The light-bulb that went off in my head is now going off in everybody’s heads,” she says. “There’s a new understanding, a new curiosity. It’s exciting.”

But Feast is more than a restaurant. Alongside outreach work with local children, schools and colleges, Bruneau-Guenther provides job opportunities for First Nations and Métis people who face barriers to employment. “We believe in them regardless of their past or lack of experience, and take time to teach and mentor them,” she says. 

Bruneau-Guenther sources as many ingredients as possible from Indigenous producers and is keen to share their stories with a wider audience: “With Indigenous food, it’s not just about the ingredients, it’s about understanding the community behind them.” There is also a focus on sustainability, with food and water waste minimized, leftovers donated to soup kitchens or distributed directly to homeless people, and the use of compostable packaging, among other measures. 

Adding TV appearances on Wall of Chefs to her list of accomplishments, looking to the future the ever-busy Bruneau-Guenther is writing a cookbook and planning to launch a range of meal kits. But her focus remains on using food to improve the lives of Indigenous people in Winnipeg and beyond: “We are what we eat, so I want to help start a new healing journey among our communities.” — feastcafebistro.com

Shafik Meghji

Shafik Meghji is an award-winning travel writer, journalist, and co-author of more than 40 guidebooks for Rough Guides and DK Eyewitness. He writes for print and digital publications around the world, including BBC Travel, Wanderlust and Culture Trip, and talks about travel on podcasts, radio and TV. www.shafikmeghji.com. Twitter and Instagram: @ShafikMeghji.