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Fresh off the Plate: Celebrating Indigenous cuisine at Tea-N-Bannock

Fresh Off The Plate: Celebrating Indigenous cuisine at Tea-N-Bannock
This week on ‘Fresh off the Plate,’ Global News’ Liem Vu visits Tea-N-Bannock and meets the people behind the café and finds out what it means to them.

Indigenous cuisine is unfortunately overlooked sometimes in the culinary world.

For chefs Enos Miller and Thomas Norton, Tea-N-Bannock has become a safe haven for healing and good food. Located at the edge of Little India in Toronto at the corner of Gerrard Street East and Greenwood Avenue, it is my third stop in my Fresh off the Plate series, a four-part look at restaurants that work tirelessly to bring the flavours of the past into the present and future.

“When you say to a friend, ‘Let’s go for Tea-N-Bannock,’ that means you’re gonna sit down like this and chat,” says owner Enos Miller.

READ MORE: Fresh off the Plate — Beating the winter blues with Jamaican flavours

Miller spent the mid-80s cooking at Slate Falls First Nation. He learned about First Nations traditions, including cooking, along with fishing, cabin building and smoking meat.

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When he and his wife Carolyn moved back to Toronto, they wanted to create a space that celebrates Indigenous culture and cuisine.

On the menu is a beautiful selection of Canadian-sourced meats and fish, including the Arctic char grilled dinner and the bison burger. Each dish is presented simply and highlights the fresh ingredients.

Liem Vu/Global News
Liem Vu/Global News Liem Vu/Global News

“It’s a laidback cuisine. There’s nothing spicy about it. We just let the flavours of the individual food items come through,” says chef Thomas Norton, who was born in Southampton, Ont., as part of the Saugeen Nation.

The bannock sampler platter features wild blueberry jam, bannock, bison sliders, wild rice and Arctic char.
The bannock sampler platter features wild blueberry jam, bannock, bison sliders, wild rice and Arctic char. Liem Vu/Global News

Norton is classically trained in French and Italian cuisine. Indigenous cooking is actually new to him.

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“I’m what you would call ‘one who walks in both worlds.'” says Norton. “I’m part of the ’60s Scoop so I’ve had to catch up with my own heritage. It’s been a struggle but I’ve managed it. And working here, it’s become full circle.”

READ MORE: Canadian cuisine a mix of culinary traditions, but one is missing

In addition to the food menu, Tea-N-Bannock also serves Gaagigebak (Ojibwe) Labrador tea, which is handpicked from northern Ontario and is used to help curb or remedy the common cold and respiratory illnesses.

For both Norton and Miller, Tea-N-Bannock is more than just a restaurant. It’s a place where they can celebrate and heal and they welcome people from all walks of life to come and experience what they have to offer.

Tea-N-Bannock

1294 Gerrard St. E.

Toronto, Ont.

Read the rest of the Fresh off the Plate series here.

Do you have any food memories and photos? Please send to liem.vu@globalnews.ca

Liem Vu is a co-host and weather anchor on ‘Global News Morning’ in Toronto.