Cree-Laotian cuisine coming soon to Saskatoon
- Katie Doke Sawatzky | June 11, 2017
If you take bison burger and top it with spicy shredded carrot, or spice-rubbed ribs coated with caramelized Saskatoon berries, what do you get? Menu items for Chantel Buffalo’s dream restaurant.
“There’s not a whole lot of authentically Laotian restaurants here in Saskatoon,” she said. “There’s also not a lot of Aboriginal cuisine, as well. I just thought it would be really cool to blend the two ideas and give that to Saskatoon.”
The idea of a Cree-Laotian restaurant didn’t come out of thin air. Buffalo’s father is from Vientiane, Laos and her mother is from Kawacatoose First Nation. Buffalo always liked cooking and said that both of her parents taught her how to make authentic food from each of their cultures. Now a year out of school at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, the 33-year-old has a business plan in place and is working on the menu.
“It takes a lot of time to really do authentic cooking, you know, you really have to tweak the recipe based on smell,” she said.
Buffalo took the Hotel and Restaurant Management program at Sask Polytechnic after finishing the Adult Basic Education program. For her, going back to school brought change she wanted in her life.
“I wanted something better for my kids,” she said. “You know, in the back of my mind, I was like man, one day I’m going to build an empire for my kids, I just don’t know how to do it or what to do and I know that I really enjoyed cooking.”
Buffalo was affected by drugs, alcohol, and violence growing up. School gave Buffalo what she wanted in order to build a better life for her kids.
“All my life I’ve wanted change within my community, within my family, within all the things I’ve been affected by,” she said. “My entire focus was changing that.”
Buffalo’s time at Sask Polytechnic was challenging. Not only was she raising four children and working part-time, but in the first year of the management program, right before her week of final exams, her best friend committed suicide.
Buffalo was determined to push forward. The day after the funeral she completed her accounting exam and passed with a 97-per-cent average in the class.
Her determination hasn’t gone unnoticed by Sask Polytechnic. On June 3, Buffalo was awarded the college’s inaugural Young Alumnus Partnership Award, which is given to emerging leaders that inspire other students and alumni.
Buffalo received the award because of her high marks and her commitment to encouraging other students. She‘s also spoken at events for Sask Polytechnic, including an Indigenous education symposium the college was part of in the Yukon in 2016, and was nominated for CBC Saskatchewan’s Future 40.
Buffalo said there are a lot of students that can relate to her experiences but don’t know to keep going with their studies. She said her counsellors and advisors really helped her along the way.
“I try to teach that and explain what I’ve done and how I did it and try to motivate others to do the same,” she said.