For most normal people, an ideal vacation destination includes delicious food experiences. Like in Italy, for example, you can see the art and architecture while fuelled by hand-made gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce that transcends physical sustenance and becomes a heavenly experience.
In the Yukon, people like Miche Genest have been having ethereal experiences with ingredients that can be found in the wild and on local farms. She is one of the driving forces behind a five-day event taking place next week that aims to share the deliciousness of Yukon flavours with people who live here, people who visit here, and chefs who cook here.
Genest, together with Yukon Brewing, the Yukon Outfitters Association, Air North and a handful of other businesses and not-for-profit organizations have worked together to create the Yukon Culinary Festival: A Celebration of Local Food and Homegrown Cuisine, which kicks off on Thursday, June 20 and runs through to Monday, June 24.
It will feature free food; cooking demonstrations; and Yukon-inspired dishes offered by local restaurants.
Blake Rogers, executive director of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, says one festival goal is to lodge the Yukon in people’s minds as a place with delicious food.
“Food might not be the reason why people come to the Yukon, but it’s one of the things that help enhance the trip while they’re here,” says Rogers.
Beer is also a trip enhancer.
“I’ve got to say I love all Yukon beer – Yukon Brewing makes some great products,” Rogers says.
A chef from Toronto has been invited to host the festival and help those of us already here to see through fresh eyes what the Yukon has to offer.
“During each activity, chef Christian Pritchard will be teaming up with a different culinary expert,” Rogers says. “My favourite part, the thing that makes me the most excited about this event is the diversity of it all.”
On Thursday, June 20, Pritchard will be at the Fireweed Community Market to buy ingredients from local producers cook them during three demonstrations between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The next day there will be a Bannock Bake Off at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre. That evening is the Midnight Sun Food Crawl in which eating establishments across the territory have been invited to participate by staying open until 1 a.m. and serving Yukon-based tapas-style dishes in the price range of $10.
On Saturday, June 22 Miche Genest, the Yukon Historical and Museums Association and the Yukon Quest are hosting a presentation and cooking demonstration that features traditional First Nations cooking techniques, food from the Gold Rush era and the special food eaten by dogs and people mushing along the Yukon Quest trail.
Also, the Yukon First Nations Tourism Association, Adäka Cultural Festival, and the Yukon College is hosting a free feast between noon and 6 p.m. at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.
On Monday, June 24 the festival moves to Dawson City.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in interpreter Fran Morberg-Green will present a talk on “the invisible world of the Shaman, our connection to the spirit world, and… the interconnectedness between plants, animals and people.”
There will be more free food: wild crafted local teas, and berry jams served with homemade bannock.
Check out the full schedule on page 12 of this issue of What’s Up Yukon.
Local farmers, fishmongers and other food artisans already have a bounty of ripe and ready ingredients to be showcased in the festival.
Colin O’Neill, manager of the Fireweed Community Market, says when chef Christian Pritchard strolls through the stalls he’ll find fresh produce such as kale, Swiss chard and herbs from various producers. Also currently available are halibut, arctic char, rockfish and scallops caught near Skagway from Frisky Fresh Fish; fresh-baked breads from Birdhouse Catering and Home Sweet Home Baking; and goat cheese from Lendrum Ross Farm.
“There are some fantastic farms in the Yukon and these folks are incredibly passionate about what they’re doing and there’s nothing better for a farmer who’s trying to sell their produce than to find a market of people who are equally passionate about buying locally produced, fresh, top-quality food,” O’Neill says.
The Yukon Culinary Festival takes place at various venues in Whitehorse, June 20 to 23 and in Dawson City on June 24.