Born and raised on Anishinaabewaki (Grand Rapids), Anishinaabe personal chef, Camren Stott, is a tribal member of The Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. His business, Jiibaakwaan Foods Foods, caters dinner parties comprised of up to three courses of indigenous-inspired food. He also offers in-home meal planning, including the ingredients and help with preparing two to five meals. Stott develops menus, incorporating indigenous ingredients, based on the client’s dietary restrictions, likes, and dislikes.
In addition, before COVID-19 shutdowns, Stott had been hosting food pop-ups, most recently, a five-course dinner in Detroit. He has presented lectures and cooking classes at Blandford Nature Center and Cook Arts Center. Next fall, his lecture series at Grand Rapids Community College Secchia Institute for Culinary Education will address the health benefits of decolonized diets.
“My main message, my main mission, is to make indigenous food more accessible and recognizable by communities,” Stott says. “Decolonized diets are more sustainable and a way for sustaining life. Most ingredients today are overly processed to the point of not being recognizable. The point of food is to nourish everybody.”
Stott became interested in cooking as a child. Those interests changed focus to indigenous foods over the past three years during a culinary internship under the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA), where he learned to cook with Native chefs at Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summits.
“I preach the fact that food and food sovereignty is everybody’s birthright,” Stott says. “The big difference between native food and first nation foods across the world is that the American diet is the epitome of processed food. I want to serve food that’s going to nourish people, especially elders. We revere them and want to take care of them.”
During the pandemic, Stott has specifically felt a calling to nourish Grand Rapids’ indigenous community and others who lack access to healthy, whole foods. As such, he has been searching for a commercial kitchen where he can prepare meals from nutrient-rich and indigenous ingredients in order to serve them to those in need for free.
“I want to reach lower income people, let them know ‘I care about you and want to give you good food with no strings attached.’ Healthy food that doesn’t suck,” he says. “I want to give people the opportunity to taste food that looks amazing, to get my recipe and use it at home.”
Stott’s ingredients include berries, wild game, produce from farmers’ markets, and foods he forages himself. Part of his mission is to help people with income challenges feel more comfortable shopping at farmers markets and cooking simple meals from scratch.
“I want to get people as excited about making food as going to a restaurant,” Stott says. “Everybody has the ability. It is better to teach about how to cook food than hoarding secrets and trying to wow people. I love making gorgeous plates. I like having currency. But I don’t want to base my work around that.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy Camren Stott