Sponsored by Indspire
Chef David Wolfman knows just how important it is to have a community behind you when you’re pursuing your dreams—and to pass on the knowledge you gain during the pursuit!
A member of the Xaxli’p First Nation, this classically-trained chef has not only revolutionized the culinary landscape here in Canada but has changed the way the world thinks about Indigenous and North American cuisine. He introduced wider audiences to Indigenous Fusion—traditional foods with a modern twist—as executive producer and host of Cooking with the Wolfman, his own TV series, which aired on APTN from 1999-2017. His cookbook, Cooking with the Wolfman: Indigenous Fusion, was co-written with his partner Marlene Finn; it premiered to great acclaim and appeared on numerous “Best Cookbooks” lists.
Internationally renowned for his knowledge of wild game and Indigenous cooking techniques, Chef Wolfman was recently honoured for his leadership with the 2022 Indspire Award for the Arts. He was one of twelve Indspire Laureates recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Indigenous community in multiple categories: Youth (First Nations, Inuit and Métis); Business & Commerce; Health; Education; Law & Justice; Culture, Heritage & Spirituality; Public Service; Sports; and Lifetime Achievement.
Education and mentorship have always been critical parts of Chef Wolfman’s journey. As a culinary consultant, he is a popular motivational speaker, leading workshops in Indigenous culinary and cultural tourism, and family meal planning. He has also been helping students discover and channel their passion for Indigenous cuisine and techniques as a culinary arts professor at George Brown College for the last 27 years.
He recalls, “I remember going in front of a group of people, and they said, ‘Can you tell us what’s on the menu?’ and I said, ‘Well, we have wild rice and it was picked this way, and not only did we put some in our canoe, but we also planted some more seeds and we left some out for the birds.’ And somebody said, ‘Wow, you should be a teacher! You’re sharing this knowledge, not just telling us what’s on the menu!’ And then I realized: I guess I am!”
Whether he’s planning culinary tour de forces, working with traditional foods on the land or teaching fledgling chefs in the classroom, Chef Wolfman is passionate about the transmission of knowledge. “When we get our traditional knowledge—any of the knowledge that’s shared with us—it’s not ours to take and pack it up, and make a recipe box and lock it, and nobody gets it. It’s given to us to give away,” he says. “I think what’s really important is giving these students the tools that they need. And then when they pick up those tools and start using them, their lives start changing.”
What’s next on the horizon for this boundary-pushing chef? Well, he recently created an inspiring gala menu for Indspire’s inaugural A Feast in the Forest, a magical evening that featured performances by the likes of fellow Indspire Laureate Buffy Sainte-Marie and Jeremy Dutcher, and raised over $1 million for Indigenous education.
But even amid a very busy schedule, Chef Wolfman is never short of enthusiasm, because, as he says, “Love what you do and you’ll have a full life.”
Find out more about Chef Wolfman, Indspire and the Indspire Awards at indspire.ca.