Bonding over beaver dinner

Moosemeat & Marmalade debuts Jan. 7 on APTN

A new TV series launching tonight (Jan. 7) on APTN combines the culinary talents of a classically trained British chef with the bush smarts of a First Nations home cook also famous as a Canadian singer/songwriter.

Moosemeat & Marmalade, a 13-part documentary series starring celebrity chef Dan Hayes and acclaimed bush cook Art Napoleon, features several episodes filmed on locations in Vancouver, including Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro, Granville Island Public Market, Cottonwood and Harmony community gardens, and C Restaurant, which recently closed.

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Napoleon said his original concept was for a comedy about cooking created for children, but the producers he pitched it to decided it was better suited for adults. When Napoleon happened to meet Hayes across a catering table on a movie set, the two got talking about their love of hunting, fishing and especially cooking.

“We both know how important it is for people to understand where their food comes from,” said Napoleon. “We also have a lot of fun with Dan leading with a modern approach as I learn to cook alongside him.”

The focus of Moosemeat & Marmalade is not simply Hayes teaching Napoleon classic culinary skills, but also how to put those talents to use while cooking everything from beaver to bison to moose, pheasant and caviar. In each episode Napoleon and Hayes explore and prepare a signature dish from one of their backgrounds, while viewers experience a culinary and cultural adventure, learn about hunting, spirituality, foraging, gourmet food photography and tips on how to prepare everything from Cornish game hens to porcupine in venues as far ranging as an Aboriginal smokehouse to a Michelin-starred restaurant. 

Napoleon said despite their shared love of hunting, fishing, cooking and conservation, he admits the pair did find they had cultural differences. “I found him a little bit wasteful,” said Napoleon laughing. “I refuse to waste anything, so the end of a carrot gets put into a sauce, but on the other hand he thinks I’m disorganized and a bit of a slob.”

On a more serious note, Hayes said he learned a lot from Napoleon.

“Art taught me the spiritual side of hunting. Growing up in the U.K. I did a lot of hunting and fishing with a lot of respect for the animals, but there was never a spiritual connection,” said Hayes. “I’ve learned a lot about hunting and conservation. I knew what it was like to kill rabbits, foxes and pheasants, so it was fascinating to be out there. But when we killed a 2,400-pound bison I found it a very emotional thing.”

Hayes added the one episode in which he suffered the most culture shock included the hunting, preparation and cooking of a beaver. In episode one, Napoleon takes Hayes to northern B.C. where he’s taught how to skin a beaver by a First Nations elder. Hayes also learns about the edible plants surrounding a wetland, smokes meat inside an old tepee to avoid the rain, and participates in a friendly cook-off with a group of community-minded women attempting to create healthy bannock recipes.

“Before that, I had never seen a beaver, shot a beaver or cooked a beaver,” he said.

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