fter several attempts to reach Paul Natrall, I finally get the award-winning Indigenous chef on the phone. Engaging and soft spoken, the 38-year-old Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation member apologizes profusely for not calling me back sooner.
After a few minutes of chatting, I understand why it took him quite so long: this second-generation chef and director at the Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations is a very busy man.
Besides running Mr. Bannock Indigenous Cuisine—Metro Vancouver’s first Indigenous and wildly successful food truck—he sells products online (like his cinnamon bannock mix) and runs a catering company. And still, he finds time to volunteer with Indigenous youth through the non-profit association I Can.
“Through a number of initiatives, I Can ensures our children are healthy and safe,” says Natrall, who is raising six kids with his partner Kelley Lloyd-Jones.
Inspired by stories told to him as a young child about his great-grandfather, who was a Red Seal chef trained in the army, Natrall developed a passion for cooking from an early age. He spent endless hours watching both of his grandmothers cook rustic homestyle cuisine on the unceded and traditional territory of the Coast Salish people—specifically the Squamish Nation.
“Using traditional ingredients, my grandmothers would cook shepherd's pie with elk and a variety of berry pies,” Natrall recalls. “When I was 11, my dad died, so I started cooking for my mother, grandmother, and my siblings.”
Thanks to the hunting of his uncles, he learned how to cook elk, venison, moose, deer and bison. “My earliest memory of eating game meat,” he says, “was a deer chow mein that one of my grandmothers cooked.”
In 2010, he attended the Aboriginal cooking program at Vancouver Community College (VCC), before becoming a chef that same year. “At VCC, I was also trained in classic French cuisine,” says Natrall. “I like to share my deep roots in Indigenous food by creating modern fusion dishes.”
In 2012, Natrall went on to be a member of Aboriginal Culinary Team Canada for the Culinary Olympics in Germany. The experience was a highlight of his life. Other memorable moments include a guest spot on the Rachael Ray Show and the Food Network’s Cheese: A Love Story.
He began his gastronomy career at Capilano University as the cafeteria night supervisor before launching Mr. Bannock two years later; in 2016, a $7,000 grant from the Squamish Nation Trust helped Natrall start PR Bannock Factory, his catering company. His private and corporate catering gigs feature flagship dishes such as venison burgers, herb-and-garlic venison sausages served with a bacon-and-corn relish, smoked pork and spicy crusted elk briskets, and salmon cooked several different ways.
In 2017, he took home third place for his Indian Tacos at Taco Fest, his twist on this popular dish—topped with chili, sharp cheddar, lime sour cream, salsa verde, and spicy chips—beating out 20 other vendors. He later sold a whopping 2,100 tacos at that year’s National Aboriginal Day celebrations.
Renowned for his unique fusion of flavours and textures while employing traditional cooking methods such as stone baking, smoking, and curing, Natrall’s street food has become what legends are made of. You need only go on his social media feeds to read what people say about his famous bannock waffles, drenched in fresh Fraser Valley juniper berries, whipped cream, and maple syrup, or his meat tacos and smoked salmon, to get a sense of his popularity. “What makes my smoked meats so tender,” he says, “is that I slow cook them for 18 hours.”
Natrall’s food encompasses a lot of soul, a lot of skill, a lot of flavour, a lot of history, and, frankly, a lot of fun. As we are about to hang up, he concludes: “I’m a fortunate man.”