“Food has always fascinated me.”
Boozhoo Ozaagimaagaabaawiik indego, Wazhushk Nindoodem, Mitaanjigamiing First Nation Nindonji. My name is Elizabeth Henderson; I was born and raised in Northwestern Ontario and currently reside in my homelands in Treaty 3 Territory. I’m a mother of two and my life has led me on the culinary arts path. I have completed the one-year Culinary Skills certificate offered at SGEI. My interest in food began in childhood by watching my grandmother Judy Bird. She would make a huge holiday dinner to feed her family and grandchildren. I remember fondly how it involved a massive stack of pies, including apple, blueberry, and lemon meringue. She cooked wholeheartedly, which inspired me to continue her legacy. As a child, I watched cartoons and the food network equally. I was fascinated by the artistry and creation of delicious home-cooked meals.
Discovering my passion
My path to food was never a straight line. I originally went away to school for environmental science. I struggled because I moved away from home to pursue higher education. Faced with financial and mental health struggles, I had to quit. It was a blessing in disguise because I began to cook for myself and discovered my passion. After a few different career choices, I decided to take a program where I wholeheartedly felt I was making the right decision. I will never forget the feeling when I showed a picture to my oldest child of the food I created in my chef’s uniform. She said, “Wow, are you a chef, mom? You’re a cool mom.” All I wanted to be was a cool mom from that point forward.
Bringing culture into my cooking
My parents have always been connected to the land. They traditionally harvested wild foods such as wild rice, blueberries, and walleye. They have gifted me with the knowledge of preparing wild foods. I appreciate what we can get from the land and it is essential to keep those traditions alive for the next generation. To Indigenous people, food is a massive part of the culture and is considered sacred. I envision elevating Indigenous cuisine and reconnecting with the food of the land. I would like to incorporate modern cooking techniques to take traditional foods to the next level. My background in environmental studies helps me because I know the trees, shrubs, and plants in the boreal forest, some of which are edible, and I can put them into the food I prepare. I also want to encourage healthy food choices, especially amongst the Indigenous people, since we are faced with many complex diseases due to the modern colonial diet.
Seven Generations Education Institute has provided me with services that helped me succeed in reaching my education goals. The school has kind staff and instructors who are always willing to go above and beyond for their students. They offered bursaries, counseling services, and a safe space to smudge and practice my culture by praying to the Grandfather Drum Saagajiwe and Grandmother Eagle Staff Gookomisinaan. The complimentary breakfast and lunch program was a game-changer for me, and I looked forward to Nadine’s lunches every day. I currently have a job at the Flint House in Fort Frances as a line cook. I have received many job offers, even before the end of the second semester. The food industry is growing and in high demand for cooks. My dream is to continue my education and one day open a business.
Finding my talent, and you can too
During my time in the Culinary Skills program, I felt free to express myself through food, art, and creation. I’ve gained a valuable skill set I will utilize for the rest of my life because food is forever. No matter your skill level in the kitchen, you can gain insight into the world of food. Its industry and its process. I discovered my talent in baking through this program. SGEI is a wonderful school to learn and grow as a human being. If you are considering applying to this program, you won’t regret it. Miigwetch Seven Generations Education Institute!