TV chef hosts Aklavik muskox-cooking workshop


Rich Francis, a finalist on Top Chef Canada and an expert on Indigenous cuisine, will teach people to prepare and cook muskox in Aklavik this weekend.

The event came about in response to requests from harvesters to learn how to work with muskox, said Michelle Gruben, a resource person for the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee.

“We don’t really know how to work with the muskox here in Aklavik,” Gruben said. Caribou have long been a staple food in the region but harvesters have noticed that muskox are increasingly common, she said.

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In April, the Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee held the first in a series of workshops intended to teach harvesters how to hunt, prepare and cook muskox. The committee invited a harvester from Sachs Harbour, where muskox are more commonly used, to share his knowledge with community members.

He helped dispel myths about harvesting muskox and took a group into the hills near Aklavik to harvest one of the animals, Gruben said.

Mike Suitor, a Yukon Government biologist, scans the horizon during a muskox workshop in Aklavik in April 2022. Jessica Norris and Kate Curtis/McGill University and University of Victoria
A muskox harvested during April’s workshop in Aklavik. Jessica Norris and Kate Curtis/McGill University and University of Victoria

The upcoming event – part two of the muskox workshop series – will focus on preparing and cooking muskox, Gruben said.

The Aklavik Hunters and Trappers Committee has been working with the Wildlife Management Advisory Council for the Yukon North Slope and the Yukon government to run the workshop, for which organizers have recruited Rich Francis. Born in Fort McPherson, Francis has Haudenosaunee and Tetlit Gwich’in heritage and is known for being the first Indigenous chef to compete and place on Top Chef Canada.

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Since then, he has been working to re-invent Indigenous cuisine as the chef-owner of Seventh Fire Hospitality Group in Ontario and Alberta, and as the host of APTN documentary series Wild Game.  

“This muskox is going to get fancied right up,” Gruben said, although she added Francis will use ingredients that are easily accessible in Aklavik.

The first day of the workshop will cover butchering, according to Gruben. The second day will focus on cooking. “From what I understand, he might be making a stew,” she said.

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Gruben expects a good turnout for the event, which will be held at the local curling rink. She warns that space is limited, so organizers plan to prioritize entry to members of the Hunters and Trappers Committee. Other community members are welcome as space allows, she said.

“I think it’s going to be good.”


This article is produced under a Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0 licence through the Wilfrid Laurier University Climate Change Journalism Fellowship.