Hailing from Canada’s West Coast, Paul Natrall owns and operates Mr. Bannock, Vancouver’s first Indigenous food truck and catering business. Recognized by the British Columbia Achievement Foundation as Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019, Natrall shares his passion for Indigenous-fusion cuisine with others by contributing to his community as a director with the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations (ICAN). This entrepreneur classically trained in French cuisine at Vancouver Community College, where he hopes to soon mentor other aspiring chefs.
The past seven months have been difficult for most small businesses in Canada and across the globe. In the midst of COVID-19, a temporary closing forced Natrall to get creative, all while he and his wife home-schooled their seven children. He kept active by maintaining an online presence with Instagram, participated in a cook-off with ICAN, and worked for Vice , BuzzFeed and Tito’s Vodka. During this time, ICAN also sponsored 50 boxed meals for small families in Natrall’s community of Squamish First Nation. This fall, Natrall plans to fundraise to be able to provide another round of meals for families—a feast box—to celebrate winter solstice and Christmas.
SAY Magazine caught up with Natrall to find out a little more about his culinary journey thus far. Check out the Q&A below for all the details.
SAY: What inspired you to be a chef?
Natrall: My dad passed away when I was young, and it was my grandmother who took care of my sisters and me. Grandmother cooked for us; she cooked for all the family. Food brought the family together.
SAY: Why a food truck?
Natrall: A food truck has less overhead than a normal restaurant. The ability to move allows us to serve more people in a wider area.
SAY: Is there a secret to your success? What words of advice can you share with the next generation?
Natrall: Show up. Work hard. Hustle and determination got me here. I mentored under some great chefs, learned a lot and raised expectations.
SAY: Is there anything that stands out from your journey that has helped you to develop your culinary style?
Natrall: When I was younger, I was a picky eater. While I was training, chefs would tell me, “You don’t have to like it, but you have to eat it.” We had to get to know flavour profiles. In 2012, we were practicing for the culinary Olympics. I had to make a broth and process using salmon. I removed all the scales, bones and head. The cheeks, eyeballs and head went into the broth, and I ate it. I won’t say that I liked it, but I ate it, and I was proud of it. That experience stands out in my mind and has certainly helped me develop as a chef.
SAY: What signature dish are you known for?
Natrall: Bannock waffles! Smoked chicken and bannock waffles. We’ve had tourists from all over come to try them, from Britain to New York. This year, I’m introducing the DBK, a spin on the BLT: smoked duck, five-spice bacon and kim chi on fried bread with house-made Korean barbecue sauce.
SAY: Are you looking to expand your business?
Natrall: When I started this three years ago, I had dreams of multiple locations. Right now, we are working on a franchise model for early 2021.
Spaghetti Squash Salad
A goal of Mr. Bannock is to reinvigorate Indigenous food culture. Natrall does this by focusing on Indigenous cooking methods, such as smoking meats, clay and stone baking, and cooking without oil; getting back to ancestral roots and ancient ways of cooking.
Here, Natrall shares an Indigenous spaghetti squash dish that is really easy to make at home. Made with wholesome fresh ingredients, it is healthy and tasty. Enjoy!
1 large spaghetti squash
1/2 cup cooked black bean rotini pasta
1 medium red onion
1 green pepper (chopped)
1 medium parsnip
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1 lime (cut into wedges)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Day before: Pickle whole veggies overnight by placing beet, parsnip and onion in vinegar, making sure they are fully immersed.
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Slice squash in half, lengthwise, and remove the fibrous strings and seeds. Season with rosemary, salt and pepper. Bake face up on a cookie sheet for 30-40 minutes.
3. While the spaghetti squash is baking, slice pickled veggies; red onions, beets and parsnips.
4. Once spaghetti squash is cooked (soft when poked with a fork), use a fork to scrape the squash flesh into a bowl to create fine noodles.
5. Cook the black bean rotini pasta in boiling water for 3 minutes.
6. Mix all ingredients by hand, adding the pasta last.
7. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds.
8. Squeeze lime for acidity.
9. Garnish with cilantro.
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