Denise Sparrow, a member of the Musqueam First Nation, first became involved with cultural foods when her grandmother and mother brought her on hikes to gather foods for their home, then showed her how to prepare them in the Sechelt way. Years later she’d use her cultural knowledge of native food to packaging and selling salmon in Vancouver, Canada. The salmon business flourished, and eventually Denise found herself at her own food stand a local pow wow, having been nudged to do so by her aunt. And that experience turned out to be transformative, as Denise soon opened up Salishan Catering, fusing traditional Musqueam food with modern cuisine, catering to the Vancouver Lower Mainland .
Salishan has catered musical festivals, weddings, and a 500-guest international business banquet honoring Germany’s top travel agents since then, the business growing steadily due to excellence in two fields; cuisine and word of mouth advertising. Salishan makes prawns in wild garlic oil, shrimp and seaweed Bannock, fiddlehead fern canapé, alder barbecued salmon, and scalloped wapato potato to name a few of their many beloved dishes. The boom in business has allowed Salishan to expand their business operations and local outreach. Denise has since opened a catering school in her main kitchen which has supported local Musequeam community members, teaching them valuable cooking and catering skills, preparing them for work in Vancouver and beyond. Salishan is expanding to support local organizations, from hospitals to churches and fire halls, and committed to retaining their core ideal that it never was, nor will it ever be, all about money.
This summer, Salishan catering is going to be providing Klahowya Village in Stanley Park, Vancouver, with salmon. This is aboriginal summer village includes a Spirit Catcher train ride into the forest of Stanley Park, dance performances, cultural tours and an Elder Area where visitors can speak to aboriginal elders about their experiences.
When we asked Denise whether or not she planned on catering any pow wows in the future, she responded happily, “If somebody asks us, we’ll do it. We’ll raise the money and do it.” An unsurprising response from a woman who built her business on remembering her roots and expanding upon them.