Running with the Wolfman

GBC Chef David Wolfman publishes Indigenous fusion cookbook

So why do they call him the Wolfman?

“That’s my real name!” said David Wolfman with a laugh. “It’s the name I was born with. Don’t wear it out!”

Wolfman is a professor of culinary arts at George Brown College, who has been called “the Godfather of Indigenous cuisine” (by his niece).

It’s an appropriate title, as is the title of his new book Cooking with the Wolfman: Indigenous fusion, which he co-wrote with his wife Marlene Finn.

With the opening of several new Indigenous restaurants in Toronto, including Nish Dish, Ku-Kum kitchen and Pow Wow cafe, I make the mistake of asking if Indigenous food is the next sushi.

The Wolfman has dealt with this question before.

“People always ask me, ‘Is Indigenous food the new trend?,’ and I’m like, ‘well, it’s been a trend for about 5,000 years or so’,”

Wolfman has been at it for quite some time too. He launched an Aboriginal food catering company back in 1991, and developed an Aboriginal food program for George Brown in 1994. He also had a TV show on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network for 17 years.

He waxes lyrical about food. But when Wolfman talks about salmon he’s as detailed as an historian. He effortlessly riffs off techniques on catching, preserving, and cooking salmon, as well as details on how the sound of a cricket would give the people a two-week preparation time for the salmon runs.

Wolfman also has the specifics how his mother’s people, the Xaxli’p First Nation in British Columbia, would prepare wind-dried salmon

“Nothing on it whatsoever. No salt. And they would slice it open and they would hang it by the river,” he said. “So it would be a certain breed and flavour of the river would be part of what was in that fish and they still do that to this day much like they did around two thousand years ago. Of course, if you make it today and we eat it we go ‘this needs salt’.”

Wolfman is also passionate and knowledgeable about buffalo and caribou and Arctic char. He emphases that different Indigenous peoples have their own cuisines and ingredients depending on their region and culture.

Wolfman’s roots in Xaxli’p First Nation and his time growing up in a major city like Toronto are part of where the fusion comes in. He mixes modern palates with traditional foods. You can sense the Toronto influence on his cooking with his broad source of ingredients.

“I might use some kind of chocolate or tomatoes from our Indigenous cousins to the south or I might do a Caribbean spice mix or make a ceviche or might mix it with an Indian curry or a black pepper from Asia or other ingredients from around the world.”

The book launches on Oct. 17, but George Brown students can buy it before its release at campus bookstores.

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Running with the Wolfman