A New Brunswick teenager who grew up in Elsipogtog First Nation is hoping to share his culture with others through his passion for cooking.
Kayleb Francis said he has dreamed of becoming a chef since he was a little boy cooking for his family.
At only 14 years old, Francis has been hired by red seal chef Gene Cormier to work at his restaurant, Euston Park, at Parlee Beach in Shediac.
“I am hoping to learn different cooking techniques and different ways of cooking,” said Francis, who will be working in the beachside kitchen for the next few summers as he hones his culinary skills.
Cormier will act as Francis’s mentor and he is encouraging the youth to follow his dream to one day open his own restaurant where he hopes to delve more deeply into his traditional culinary culture. He said he looks forward to helping Francis master his culinary techniques.
“It is for Kayleb to express himself from a culinary standpoint and to put flavours on a plate and to showcase what represents him,” said Cormier.
Francis said he hopes to learn more about traditional cooking and share it with others.
“When I start getting older I want to do trips to different reserves and finding out more about traditional cooking and introduce that into my life,” he said.
Francis said he would like to incorporate some of those traditional recipes onto his own menu one day, to help share his culture with the rest of the province.
“I think it is important because a lot of our language was taken away and a lot of our culture was taken so I want to introduce that back into the world,” he said.
Nancy Milliea, supervisor of the Elsipogtog Youth Centre, which helped Francis prepare a culinary portfolio and resume, said she would like to see more employers reach out to the Indigenous community.
“Give us opportunities for our youth to grow that we may not have in our own community that we can give to them,” she said.
Francis will work at the restaurant for the next few summers developing his culinary skills and plans to study culinary arts after graduation. The hours he logs at the restaurant will count toward an eventual formal apprenticeship, said Cormier.
“Seeing the potential and the growth that this kid is going to see in the next couple of years, if this is what he is going to be anchored in, is going to be amazing,” said Cormier.