This year has been a tough one for community television. In February, Rogers announced the closing of one Toronto station and shuttered another in Mississauga, Ont., earlier this week. Shaw revealed it will be closing its community television stations in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Not only does this mean folks out of work, but a silencing of a unique voice via programming spotlighting those areas of the country in a truly local way.
Wild Kitchen is a prime example of community TV done right. The series, shot and first broadcast on NorthwesTel Community TV, celebrates the Indigenous people, their lifestyles and history through food and storytelling in the Yellowknife area. At the centre of Wild Kitchen is actress and Juno Award winner Tiffany Ayalik (pictured above left), who is equally at home in a forest harvesting morel mushrooms, casting a line for a fish or gamely swatting away black flies and erecting a teepee all while celebrating the cultural practices of her upbringing. The brainchild of executive producer Caroline Cox, Wild Kitchen came about because of where she lived.
“I’d been living in Yellowknife for quite a few years and then moved seven hours from town to a remote cabin 150 kilometres from the nearest town,” Cox says over the phone. “I learned from my neighbours a lot about wild food harvesting. There was a call from the local cable TV channel asking for more northern content and I pitched the idea.” The former Southern Ontario citizen, who worked as an associate producer on Animal Planet’s Ice Lake Rebels, moved to Yellowknife after college and has called the area home for the last 11 years.
She’s met some pretty unique individuals—including “Pike” Mike, who takes Ayalik fishing in Episode 1—and wanted their recipes and back stories to be part of the program. Episode 2 is fascinating for its bannock and spruce tip jelly recipes but also because of Ayalik’s chat with Inuit elder Gerri Sharpe, who discusses the urbanization of Indigenous cultures and what it’s like to grow up in a city after living on the land. Wild Kitchen‘s formula can work in any community, but it’s particularly effective in the Northwest Territories.
Cox used the knowledge she gained from Ice Lake Rebels to make Wild Kitchen a visual stunner. Honestly, the program would look very at home on Gusto or Food Network, with smooth cuts and gorgeous shots of northern Canada. Her crew was a tight four-person unit consisting of a director of photography, Cox shooting a second camera while producing, a field sound mixer and associate producer/production assistant and Ayalik. Together they’ve created an informative and entertaining project about Indigenous peoples and their culture through food and stories.
“A big reason why I wanted to do this show is to inspire people to be more connected to the land and think outside the box when it comes to food sourcing,” Cox says. “There really is food everywhere if you know what you’re looking for.”
Wild Kitchen‘s first three Season 1 episodes have already been broadcast on NorthwesTel, but you can get recipes and see clips via the show’s Facebook page.
Images courtesy of Wild Kitchen.