Chef Chris Commandant cooks venison over an open fire during the event at Springfield Farm, “bringing the Indigenous and non-Indigenous under one tent and enjoying food,” said Chef Chris Commandant. Vogel Photo
Sipping the original Bushmills Whiskey while standing in a farm field surrounded by plants and nature could not be any better for the soul. Food brings us together but sharing the culture and food of the local area is a dream come true for hosts, Eleanor, and Finbarr McCarthy.
Springfield Farm is located on Mohawk Territory. Eleanor states: “Our family is proud to be stewards of the land,” which inspired the event and brought their Irish, French, Scottish ancestry together with family heritage to the Mohawk Peoples.
Field & Feast was a unique event, combining the talents of three world-class chefs to deliver the fine dining experience prepared in the field. Dr. Eamonn McKee, Ambassador of Ireland to Canada, Jamaica and The Bahamas was present to represent the Irish Embassy and support Tourism Ireland for their sponsorship.
Chef Chris Commandant
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, which is obtained by studying in France for four years; Commandant incorporated the lessons to be studied with the basic techniques of his ancestry.
His goal is to “influence [his] vision of how art can transpire to a plate, and sourcing local ingredients; ingredients native to our nation, influences my mindset, encouraging me to experiment with new products and techniques in my daily culinary repertoire.”
Chef Commandant is the Sous Chef at the 1 Elgin Restaurant, National Arts Centre in Ottawa. He had a vision for the Field & Feast menu, inspired by the time he spent with his grandfather in their home community of Wahta. The love of nature and respect for his surroundings inspired his menu. “I have tried to maintain ingredients Indigenous to pre-colonial ideals of eating, but recognize that in today’s modern culinary landscape that there is room to present our foods with modern ingredients and cooking techniques,” says Chef Commandant; “sharing my culture and food encourages me to bring light to the unknown and help better educate our non-Indigenous allies in understanding our rich history and our commitment to tradition and its food.”
Chef Dr. JP McMahon
JP McMahon is one of Ireland’s most prominent chefs. His menus always feature seaweeds, seaherbs, wild herbs and flowers; he loves their expressive possibilities and how they reflect the local landscape and give a sense of time and place to a dish. Chef McMahon likes to incorporate old traditional cooking and preservation methods, such as curing, pickling, smoking, and fermenting.
Chef McMahon is not only a chef but also a restaurateur and an author. He also owns the Aniar Boutique Cookery School. He is committed to the educational and ethical aspects of food, to buying and supporting the best of local and free-range produce and engaging directly with farmers and producers.
Chef Joseph Shawana
Born and raised in Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve located on Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Chef Shawana is currently the chair of ICAN, the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations. ICAN is dedicated to breaking barriers and sharing Indigenous food, culinary and cultural experiences across Canada and the world.
“My approach to food comes through my cooking as I blend each region into a dish that best represents what I feel is the right approach to that dish,” states Chef Shawana. “My philosophy of food is going back to the roots of what Indigenous cuisine really is. I have developed quite a recipe book on our traditional foods; not only did I find them amazing but also that our cuisine is a very regional based diet.”
Senator Bernadette Clement summed the event up perfectly. Clement stated: “This is about more than food – together, these leaders in agri-tourism and the culinary arts are bringing together communities, creating partnerships and building relations. “The intersection of the Mohawk Peoples of Akwesasne, the Ontario francophonie, and the cultural mosaic of Canadians in our region, creates a perfect space for the celebration of history, language, music, and, of course, food!” Senator Clement said.
Following the nine-course meal, the guests were entertained by the River Mohawk Band.
Eleanor and Finbarr accomplished what they set out to do, bringing together different heritages under one roof for an extraordinary experience in dining and socializing.