Tee Pee’s Story is About Indigenous Cooking: A Journey of Perseverance and Love

Originally from Whitefish Lake First Nation, Curtis Cardinal is the owner and founder of Tee Pee Treats Indigenous Cuisine located in Edmonton.

(ANNews) – We all experience journeys and stories while on Mother Earth. Originally from Whitefish Lake First Nation, Curtis Cardinal is the owner and founder of Tee Pee Treats Indigenous Cuisine located in Edmonton.

According to Cardinal, Tee Pee Treats has been in the works for over 11 years. In 2010, he was selling bannock from his backpack at powwows to earn money during the summer. But the fact that he did not have the necessary food and safety qualifications in Alberta caused his business to close.

« The bannock police chased me out of there, » Cardinal said with a smile. He explained why he launched Tee Pee Treats. “I started my own business because I love to cook. And I learned to cook with my mother and my aunts.

But he said what turned him off his culinary journey was his struggles with drugs and alcohol. Cardinal had also previously struggled with being homeless. He told ANNews that he went to rehab in 2012 and soon after he was asked by longtime friend Ian Gladue to help out with his Native Delights business.

Cardinal explained that Native Delights started out as a sales cart and Gladue mentored him on how to run it. When Native Delights got a food truck, Cardinal took it to different events across Alberta. The learning experience he gained from Native Delights was crucial for him to be able to run his own business and in 2015 Cardinal opened his own catering business.

« But, it wasn’t really legit because I didn’t have my business license, » Cardinal said with a smile. « So I was just doing it out of my house, out of my garage. »

Eventually Cardinal got his business license in 2018 and he said the process of opening and running Tee Pee Treats was a lot of work. He put many hours into the business and spent many late nights and many days away from his family, all for the purpose of being able to give people good food.

Today, Tee Pee Treats has an on-site and take-out restaurant at 9641 102A Avenue in downtown Edmonton, home of the Community Arts Laboratory (CO*LAB). Tee Pee Treats also treats in another kitchen located in Edmonton.

Cardinal said the current Tee Pee Treats dining venue is really good and partnering with CO*LAB and The Quarter Arts Society was one of the best things to happen for Tee Pee Treats this year. The CO*LAB building where Tee Pee Treats is located has spaces for music events, dancers and drummers. There is an indoor and outdoor element to the restaurant. Cardinal said the building was what he had always dreamed of in a restaurant.

“I always had a vision in my mind where I wanted these restaurants to be built like teepees everywhere – all over Turtle Island.”

Cardinal said what he enjoys most about working at Tee Pee Treats is preparing the food, meeting new people every day and learning new things about the food industry. Throughout the interview, Cardinal expressed a genuine love for his work and also a love for people. One way he demonstrates this love is through his initiatives to give back to the community.

One such initiative was Tee Pee Treats’ Giving Back to the Streets 5 event. Sponsored by Astum Auto Loans, the event took place on September 25 at its CO*LAB site. Cardinal said he had been planning the event for two years but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not possible until this year. The event had live performances, drummers and free food and it included various donations such as winter clothing for the community.

Another way Tee Pee Treats gives back to the community is through its Hanging Meals (SPM) program. The SPM is where community members donate money to the program and Tee Pee Treats then uses that money to prepare food for those who cannot afford their own food and are in need. Cardinal said it’s really the community that feeds those in need because while Tee Pee Treats makes the food, it’s community donations that make PMS possible.

« Since we opened in July of this year at the new site, we’ve had to feed at least 300 people, » Cardinal said. « Hungry people hear about the program and come here and eat something. »

Going forward, once Tee Pee Treats grows, Cardinal plans to give back to the community in a bigger way. One of the ways he wants to give back is by creating an aboriginal trust fund. The idea would be for Indigenous peoples who are in financial need to be able to access money from the trust fund through Tee Pee Treats. Cardinal explained that they could use the money for things like paying for groceries or addiction programs.

When asked if he had a message he would like to share with those who may be struggling or who aspire to open their own business, Cardinal’s message was, « Just do what you love to do, work hard and don’t give up. »

He explained that he wouldn’t work at Tee Pee Treats if he didn’t like it. But running the business is hard work and he faced many challenges. However, despite everything he’s been through, he never gave up on Tee Pee Treats. Knowing that others, including his children, are watching him motivates him to keep persevering.

« A lot of people inspire me, but I also want to inspire others, » Cardinal said. « And I hope that’s what I’m doing with Tee Pee Treats: inspiring others. »

More information about Tee Pee Treats can be found at www.teepeetreats.com.


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