Mi’kmaw chef Norma Condo’s culinary career is soaring to new heights with her Montreal-based catering service. Her business, Miqmak Catering Indigenous Kitchen has been up and running for less than a year.
Things really began taking off for Condo in August 2019 when she started providing in-flight meals for Air Creebec medical charter flights for the Cree Health Board.
“It’s a big thing! It’s a huge thing!” she said.
Condo is Mi’kmaw from Gesgapegiag in Gaspe, has been a chef for 15 years, mostly in the United States. She moved to Montreal just over 3 years ago to get her certification in Quebec as a chef and specializes in Indigenous food.
“I’ve been doing this since November, 2018, from my own house. It was so crazy and expanding and my kids were losing room because I had to buy so much stuff you know? It was time to rent a kitchen so I found this place, it’s perfect it’s not too small, not too big.”
Condo said the Cree Board of Health and Social Services for James Bay (CBHSSJB) reached out to her last year to cater for a nurses' training course in Montreal. “I did moose stew and bannock, an Indigenous salad and it was all Indigenous items and they loved it,” said Condo.
Early in 2019, she was asked for a proposal for catering services on charter flights for the Cree Health Board, for patients flying south for medical appointments from Eeyou Istchee. She created a rmenu following the nutrition policy of the Cree Health Board.
Condo grew up on traditional food at home back in Gesgapegiag. “My Grandmother inspired me to do what I’m doing today. I come from a large family… she had 15 kids. So every Sunday she would have our traditional gathering meal, I was so excited for that day. She would let me help out time to time. That’s how I came to be where I am today.”
Cooking healthy is important for Condo. "The food I cook is all natural, it’s healthy. I make it fresh daily and the ingredients I put in there have natural roots. Our ancestors would use them and that’s something that they left behind for us to continue using.
One of the ingredients Condo uses comes from back home: cedar. “My parents have big bushes of cedar and I go there I take buckets and I fill everything up. Or if I know of people who are travelling to Gaspe, they’ll bring stuff for me that I need if I’m running low.”
Condo has family members with diabetes, which inspired her to create healthy recipes for them. “They were restricted from what they used to love eating. I said okay I’m going to try something, so I created a couple of menus where I use natural roots and ingredients. I use no salt and I use no pepper, it’s all natural roots ingredients like sage, cedar. I will dehydrate it and once when it’s all dehydrated I will grind it into a mix where I can use it in my recipes."
Condo is also proud that the prepared food is in compostable boxes, which is better for the environment than plastic containers. With 120 boxed meals a day to make, she recently hired another person to help out.
The sky is the limit for Condo and she said challenges are all how you look at them. “I’ve been a chef for 15 plus years. This is what I love doing. If you have a passion about something that you love doing you don’t have challenges.”
by Lachlan Madill