In the last one year, foodies from Turkey, London, Boston, New York, and Chicago have all made a trip to North Vancouver with a single name in mind: Mr. Bannock.
Now indigenous chef Paul Natrall, the owner of Mr. Bannock, has another local admirer.
The BC Achievement Foundation has awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award to Natrall, who runs the popular food truck, Mr. Bannock, on West 1st Street in North Vancouver.
It would be a gross understatement to call Natrall a mere food-truck operator. With his food truck and a successful catering company, Natrall is keeping alive the legacy of his ancestors as he serves bannocks, bannock waffles, smoked chicken and salmon, and other indigenous treats to food lovers in the city and beyond.
He is conscious — and proud — of his role as an ambassador for Indigenous food. “I focus on indigenous, traditional ingredients and cooking methods because my goal has always been to showcase the indigenous food culture,” he says.
Everybody is excited to try the indigenous food, he says with pride and a sense of relief, noting that residential school system had nearly wiped off all of traditional practices, including those related to food. “It was almost lost through the trauma that every family experienced.”
Though Natrall studied French cuisine and aboriginal food in a more formal setting at Vancouver Community College, his real education began while growing up in a Squamish Nation family that loved cooking. He learned traditional ingredients and cooking from his grandmothers, Mildred Nutrall and Maria Discon.
“My grandmother was the head of the family and our entire family would gather at each other’s house and there was always a house full of people. I used to watch them make the bannock, the fried and the baked bannocks and then I just loved the way they made it slightly different,” he remembers.
Another influence was his uncle Gerald Seymour, who would bring back elk and moose from his hunting trips in the Interior, which they tried with more modern fare such as spaghetti and chowmein. He still remembers the summer foraging for blackberries and other medicinal herbs.
Natrall has now been trying to meld the more traditional ingredients with modern staple — there is bannock taco, popular bannock waffle with juniper berry dry rub and smoked chicken with apple slaw. He is also experimenting with a vegan indigenous dish, a clay-baked spaghetti squash and a bean rotini with sunflower seeds with lime juice and cilantro. Also in the work is a venison sloppy joe, with herb garlic butter on stone-baked bannock with mozzarella on top.
The experimentation, Natrall says, would continue as the mixing traditional with the modern allows him to reach more people — just as he honours the memory of his uncle and his grandmothers.