Travel

Bush cook meets chef: The unlikely duo behind the docu-series Moosemeat & Marmalade

Now on its sixth season, this popular cooking show combines Indigenous and French cuisine while exploring culture, tradition and good food  

  • Nov 14, 2022
  • 869 words
  • 4 minutes
Dan Hayes (left) and Art Napoleon have co-hosted Moosemeat & Marmalade for six seasons (Photo: Dean Azim)
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Rooted in practices that long predate the country itself, the Indigenous culinary scene in Canada is garnering attention from foodies around the world. Beyond the obvious appeal of authentic fare sourced from traditional ingredients, Indigenous cuisine is intentional in the way it homes in on the land-to-table process, paying homage to the storied lineage of every dish featured.

This sentiment is foundational for Art Napoleon, a former Saulteau First Nation Chief and self-proclaimed “bush cook” who upholds a reverence for land stewardship and ethical cooking. Napoleon’s devotion to his craft takes him beyond the confines of the kitchen — he ventures into the elements to personally procure ingredients through age-old hunting and foraging customs.

Napoleon’s adherence to time-honoured Indigenous traditions contrasts with the French culinary practices of his co-host Dan Hayes, a classically trained chef who moved from London, England, to Victoria in 2006.

Their collaboration has proven captivating to devout fans of the docu-series Moosemeat & Marmalade, which chronicles the culinary adventures of this unlikely pair as they visit various locales across Canada and beyond. A long-running success story, Moosemeat & Marmalade premiered in 2014 and launched its sixth season this past fall on APTN. Season 6 sees the co-hosts renouncing their typical global itinerary for a more local approach, with all 13 episodes filmed in Canada.

Hayes and Napoleon will often venture into the elements to source ingredients and put together meals — sometimes outdoors. (Photo: Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada)
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The solely film-local approach in Season 6 may have been precipitated by the pandemic, but the duo are adamant there is no shortage of stories to be told closer to home. “We’ve travelled all around the world over the last six seasons, but what many people don’t realize is that each tribe brings its own unique culture and food to the table,” says co-host and producer Napoleon. “Filming in Canada gives us the chance to delve into inter-tribalism, multiculturalism and Indigenous diversity, all while connecting everything back to delicious food wherever we go.”

As a luminary of the budding Indigenous culinary movement in Canada, Napoleon is keen to leverage the recent upswing in global interest in precontact-inspired cuisine in Canada. “There are a lot of Indigenous chefs emerging, and they’re all getting attention because Canada hasn’t really had a cuisine of its own. Hamburgers and poutine and hot dogs and maple syrup — there’s not a whole lot there,” he says. “Almost every major city in Canada now has an Indigenous food outlet, so it’s pretty encouraging to see that emerging.”

The enthusiasm behind an exclusively Canadian season is shared by Hayes, who, after over a decade in this country, continues to be dazzled by the accessibility Canada offers to its chefs. “The coolest thing about the Canadian food scene is that anyone can go out and ethically, legally and relatively easily harvest their own wild food and wild fish and pick wild mushrooms or wild berries if they so wish. That, for me, is very, very exciting,” he says, adding that hunting and foraging are not so convenient or accessible in most parts of the world. “Certainly where I come from in the U.K., it’s very expensive. I think it is very exciting that, if they want to, people [in Canada] can get involved at a fairly low cost.” 

Photo: Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
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Despite their fondness for the recently aired, all-Canadian itinerary, which showcased scenic stops in central and western Canada, Moosemeat & Marmalade will return to its familiar intercontinental format for Season 7. Currently in production, the season follows the two Vancouver Island residents as they travel east to Nova Scotia, then head on an overseas adventure to Sweden.

“It should be very interesting because we’re hunting moose and domesticated caribou,” Hayes explains. “It’s all the same things that you might go hunting for in northern B.C., but over in Europe.” The two will explore how differently wildlife is managed in the Scandinavian nation, compared with Canada. In Sweden, as in each location they visit, Napoleon and Hayes emphasize the importance of adapting to the environment and culture in which they find themselves immersed.

Through six seasons and counting, the co-hosts’ joy in exploration and their regard for each other’s skills keeps viewers coming back for more.

“I’m not a trained chef or a Red Seal or anything like that,” says Napoleon. “I’m a guy who is bound by growing up in the woods and learning to cook on fires and learning to cook wild game, learning to cook dinner in the low-budget rez kitchen, very rustic. And so I have to make use of scarce resources to create nice meals. I’ve learned a lot from Dan about some of the processes that chefs should know.”

Meanwhile, Hayes’ worldview has expanded well beyond colonial cook- ing practices during their eight-year collaboration. “Working with Art has been very, very cool. He’s an incredible person. I’ve learned so much from him,” he reflects. “Indigenous cultures are vast and diverse. The foods they eat, and the way they catch them, and the protocols are so numerous and so complicated. I’ve been privileged to see that. And I’m still learning.”

Season 6 of Moosemeat & Marmalade is on APTN; stream previous seasons on aptntv.ca.

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This story is from the November/December 2022 Issue

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