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Toronto's new Indigenous restaurant also a cultural hub

Owner says the Bloor West spot is an attempt to reclaim Indigenous food sovereignty in communities.

Indigenous chef Johl Ringuette has operated an Aboriginal food catering service in the city for more than 10 years. Now he’s opening a permanent place for Indigenous food in the city and a cultural hub for the community.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Indigenous chef Johl Ringuette has operated an Aboriginal food catering service in the city for more than 10 years. Now he’s opening a permanent place for Indigenous food in the city and a cultural hub for the community.

Toronto’s latest Indigenous food venture isn’t just about eating out.

Sure, after NishDish Marketeria & Catering's grand opening this Friday near Bloor and Christie, you can enjoy a dish of Arctic Char or roasted elk, a plate of turkey wild rice soup or even a cup of Mohawk tea.

But owner Johl Ringuette says the business’ main mission is to raise the profile of Indigenous culture in the city, serving as a platform to bring people together and share traditional knowledge of various communities.

“I look at it as an educational hub, a way of teaching our culture to our people who had lost contact with it,” said Ringuette. “The whole concept is about bringing back Anishnawbe to Aboriginal people’s diets because access to our food has been removed.”

A seasoned First Nations chef, he has operated a catering business for over 10 years, offering Anishnawbe food to different Aboriginal agencies and student services across the city.

Now with a permanent spot in the heart of the city, the newest addition to the growing Indigenous food business has vowed to help local communities “reclaim our food sovereignty, our ceremony and our health,” added Ringuette.

He’s already introducing a youth mentorship program, where 10 young people will learn culinary arts and small business skills. NishDish will also lead efforts to create a garden in Christie Pits where herbs and traditional medicines will be grown. He’s also acquired a piece of land at Ashbridge Estate where he plans to grow native corn, beans, sweet grass and other traditional plants.

“This is the best way to combat all the epidemic health issues in our communities,” said Ringuette, noting it all started with the banning of hunting and fishing in the reserves. “Communities fell apart for many, many years, and now we have to work very hard to bring them back together.”

Grand opening:

NishDish officially opens Friday at 6 p.m. at 690 Bloor St. W. Chief Stacey Laforme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation will be present.

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