Attending the 2012 World Culinary Olympics was an eye opener for Indigenous chef Paul Natrall. The B.C. native was part of Canada’s Aboriginal Culinary Team — the first Aboriginal Culinary Team since 1994 — that travelled to Erfurt, Germany and turned heads with unique dishes that showcased his culinary style. It also gave him the opportunity to promote and preserve his Indigenous heritage through food.
Natrall’s version of Indigenous food was shaped by watching his grandmothers cook for a large family as a child. The Squamish-First-Nation chef grew up in a family of chefs who prided themselves on preparing traditional Indigenous cuisine. His great grandfather, Andrew Natrall, was a trained chef in the army; his uncle was a hunter who brought home wild moose, elk and deer.
Natrall has been specializing in Indigenous food since 2009, after graduating from Vancouver Community College, where he studied classic French and Aboriginal cooking methods. He sharpened his skills working at Vancouver’s Capilano University, Lonsdale Quay Hotel and the Edgewater Casino.
Following his appearance at the Culinary Olympics, where he prepared barbecued and wind-dried salmon for an audience unfamiliar with Indigenous flavours, Natrall came home to B.C. and started Mr. Bannock — Vancouver’s first Indigenous-fusion food truck — based on family recipes and using traditional ingredients and cooking methods.
In 2017, he started a catering company, the PR Bannock Factory, offering Indigenous cuisine and specialty dishes.
“I take a lot of pride and joy in sharing Indigenous-fusion cuisine, using traditional ingredients from the Squamish First Nation — such as juniper berries, smoked wild salmon and meats — and traditional methods, such as clay and stone baking,” he says. “For the stone baking, I did a baked bannock and it’s a lot healthier than the fried version; the taste and texture are different.”
On Mr. Bannock’s menu, pan-fried bannock with cinnamon and brown sugar ($5) is a staple, but Natrall also puts his creative spin on classic combos such as the Indigenous Chicken and Waffles, which features juniper berry, dry-rubbed chicken smoked with applewood and fresh apple-and-cranberry slaw on a waffle bannock ($12) and a Bannock Burger — a beef patty topped with cheese, apple and cranberry, with fresh-fried bannock as the bun ($10). Other favourites include the bison smokie topped with fried onions and a choice of sauces and the award-winning Indian Taco with house-made chili, sharp cheddar, lime, sour cream, salsa and spicy chips on top of freshly fried bannock (both $9).
With this latest venture, Natrall is once again turning heads. In fact, in 2018, the Mr. Bannock brand boasted roughly $80,000 in sales, sharing Indigenous food
culture across B.C.’s lower mainland and creating jobs for people in the Squamish First Nation.