Don’t Panic… We Have Bannock!
Wife-and-husband team Sharon Bond-Hogg and Darren Hogg own and operate Aboriginal cafe Kekuli in West Kelowna.
Photo by Gary Nylander
(WEST KELOWNA) – A slow smile turns upwards on Sharon Bond-Hogg’s face.
Of course, she’s politely going to refuse to share her recipe for bannock.
“Everyone asks for it,” she says with a laugh. “But it’s a secret. It’s not exactly my mom’s recipe. It’s an evolution. But I guess I can tell you I use flour in it instead of the ground up roots or pemmican (a mix of dried meats and berries) that Aboriginals traditionally might have used.”
Bond-Hogg is the owner of First Nation-themed Kekuli Cafe in West Kelowna and bannock is the Aboriginal bread that Bond-Hogg has built the business around.
“Our motto is ‘Don’t panic…we have bannock’ and it has become so popular and powerful that we’ve registered and trademarked it,” she said.
Since it opened four years ago Kekuli – the Aboriginal word for the underground lodge used for dialogue and eating – has been on a tear.
It most recently won the Aboriginal Food & Beverage Award from the B.C. Aboriginal Tourism Association and over the past couple of years has snagged accolades such as B.C. Aboriginal Business of the Year, Aboriginal Woman Entrepreneur of the Year and Westbank Aboriginal Business of the Year.
It even attracted the Toronto-based Food Network TV show You Gotta Eat Here with cameras rolling for laughs and demonstrations in the kitchen.
Host John Catucci’s highlight was naturally the Indian taco.
“Bannock tastes so good and is so versatile,” said Bond-Hogg, who lives in West Kelowna and is a member of the Nooaitch First Nation in Merritt.
“We use it as the bun for our buffalo burgers, as the bread for the wild smoked salmon sandwich, like a donut, like a scone and as the base of the Indian taco and the Indian breakfast tacos.”
The Indian taco is the restaurant’s signature dish and a cross-cultural play on words and tastes from both the Aboriginal for the bannock and the Mexican for the tacos.
A split piece of bannock is loaded with chili, salsa, sour cream, grated cheese and lettuce for a messy and delicious meal.
Another cross-cultural creation is bread pudding that uses bannock as the base of an English-inspired dessert that also includes the Aboriginal favourite Saskatoon berry.
“Oooh, we always get the bannock bread pudding with three spoons,” said customer Kathleen Reykdal, who comes to the cafe often with her husband Walter and their friend Lee Dworschak for dessert sharing and coffee.
“I never imagined there was anything like an Aboriginal restaurant and if there was I never thought I’d particularly find myself going there. But we’re regulars.”
Originally from up north in Peace River, Walter said his mom tried making bannock.
“I don’t think white people can make good bannock,” he said with a laugh.
“Ours was flat and tasteless. Sharon’s is fluffy and delicious.”
When not sharing bannock bread pudding the trio may opt for a cheese, tomato and onion bannoccia (a tasty bannock-focaccia bread hybrid) or a Saskatoon berry bannock scone.
Saskatoon berries are the marquee ingredient in the cafe’s famous blue smoothie that’s yummy as well and an incredible antioxidant.
All this success is not bad for a woman who started making bannock to serve at parent-student-teacher meetings when she worked as an Aboriginal advocate in local schools.
One year she decided to sell bannock from a booth at local festival Westside Daze and it was a huge hit. That led to a concession at a car wash for a couple of years and finally the cafe.
Bond-Hogg’s business plan for Kekuli and Aboriginal Business Canada has always had an expansion and franchising component.
The cafe has already opened a satellite location in Osoyoos, open during the summer months.
“When it comes to franchising, this concept would totally work in downtown Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton,” she said. “Our food and atmosphere appeals to both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals. It’s not about being political it’s about serving good food and making customers happy.”
Bannock can also be a dessert when sweetened up with chocolate and walnuts.
Kekuli Cafe is located in the Governors Landing strip mall just off Highway 97 on Louie Drive. It’s open seven days a week for breakfast, coffee, snacks, lunch and dinner.